I will be the first to admit that pretty much everything about winter can be a giant suck-fest. Between the sub-zero temps (and kids who refuse to dress properly for them), canceled school due to storms, and having to deal with massive piles of snow that need shoveling, it can all be really exhausting and annoying.
One of the most irritating aspects of it all is when you have to go shovel out your car. Not all of us have garages to keep our cars in during snow storms, and shoveling and scraping snow off a car when you’re freezing your tush off can be a highly unpleasant experience. I will even confess that sometimes I do a sub-par job before hitting the road.
I mean, you really only need to clear enough snow off the car so you can see out of the front, back, and mirrors, right? It can be a real pain (sometimes literally) to clear every inch of snow off the top of your car, especially if the car is taller than you are, or if the snow is frozen onto it.
Well, it turns out that doing a half-assed job of that isn’t just messy or rude; it can be downright dangerous when you go out on the road—both for you, and for the other drivers around you.
What happens is this: When driving, especially when you are going at fast speeds, the snow and ice the fly off your car can become very hazardous. Serious accidents, and even deaths, have happened as a result of chunks of snow and ice getting propelled off of cars. And this isn’t an infrequent occurrence: it happens often enough that law enforcement officials and other concerned citizens have expressed grave concerns about it.
“When you think about ice, it’s just as hard as a rock, and if your vehicle is traveling at 55 mph and an object falls from your vehicle, it’s going to travel at that speed or about that same speed,” Maryland State Police Lt. Prendi Garcia told NBC News last winter. “We’ve had over 20 vehicles that have already been struck. That includes front glass and so forth, and we’re just trying to make sure that everybody is safe.”
An awful tragedy is what it took to prompt lawmakers in Pennsylvania to create legislation that fines drivers if flying snow from their vehicles ends up causing injury to others. As NPR reports, Pennsylvania state Senator Lisa Boscola introduced the legislation when a constituent of hers, Christine Lambert, was killed while driving home for the holidays in 2005.
“A constituent of mine, on Christmas Day, was killed by a huge chunk of ice falling off a tractor-trailer,” Boscola told NPR.
Similar laws were enacted in New Hampshire in 2001 when 20-year-old Jessica Smith was killed after ice flew off a truck, striking another truck that caused a head-on collision with Smith’s car.
This tragedy was referenced in a recent Facebook post from the photographer Duane P. Vigue, whose wife was driving with their son when they were struck by falling ice from a nearby car. Thankfully, Vigue’s wife and son were safe, but the damage that was done to their car from the falling ice is staggering, and really makes you understand just how serious a matter this can be.
“My wife said there were other cars behind her and coming so she couldnt do anything and it hit the windshield,” wrote Vigue. “The front seats and dash were COVERED with little shards of glass. […] The other driver kept on going, whether they saw the ice come off or not I dont know, but PLEASE, PLEASE take a couple of minutes and clean your vehicle off. Even a little bit of ice can do MASSIVE damage.”
Unfortunately, although these types of accidents are common, according to NPR, not all states have strict laws requiring people to remove snow from their cars—and even when they do, they often only fine people after the snow strikes another car. Part of the problem, as NPR points out, is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t track these sorts of accidents, so evidence in favor of new laws and regulations relies solely on anecdotal examples.
Laws or no laws, it seems like clearing the snow off your car should just be a common courtesy, if you ask me. Again, I know that it can sometimes really suck to clear your car of every inch of ice and snow. And I will even admit that I have been somewhat guilty of that at times. But really, once you learn about how very serious a problem it can be to leave snow on your car, you should really step up to the task, and clear the damn stuff off.
Get a ladder if you can’t reach it. Ask a neighbor for help. Just get it off. Or, stay home.
Please don’t take your car on the road unless the roof of your car is totally snow and ice-free. You could save a life.