Snowy vehicles a hazard

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: Is there any law on the books that require people to completely brush the snow off cars, SUVs, trucks and 18-wheelers, especially when there is a lot of snow piled on the roofs and windshields?

On Thanksgiving day as I was traveling in Lewiston, many vehicle drivers did not bother to clear the snow, which resulted in a large chunk of frozen snow sliding off an SUV and into the roadway in front of me.

Luckily I was at a car’s length distance back, so it did not hit my hood or, worse, my windshield.

I also saw a car that had not brushed any snow off, and his visibility was very limited. I have seen police officers behind such vehicles, and they do not stop them and have them clear off the snow.

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If there is a law, why is it not enforced? Someone could get seriously injured and even killed due to one person’s laziness. If there is no law, there should be one. Hopefully this will remind people to clear the snow and to be safe. — No Name via email

ANSWER: Sun Spots found a 2011 Bangor Daily News story that described efforts to pass just such a law (bangordailynews.com/2011/02/21/politics/lawmaker-wants-to-require-snow-free-cars-in-maine/), but no evidence that there is currently such a law.

So once again she turned to Sgt. David Chick, inspector of police for the Lewiston Police Department.

The upshot is that there is no such law, but Sgt. Chick explained what limitations there are in detail (Sun Spots edited some of the statute to save space): 

“Snow has to be removed to provide a clear view from windshield and other side and rear windows; and that could be interpreted fogging or frost on the window glass which obscures view: mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-A/title29-Asec2082.html

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1. Obstructions. A person may not operate a vehicle with a sign, poster, opaque or semitransparent material or substance on the front windshield, side wing or side or rear window that obstructs the operator’s clear view of the way or an intersecting way.

2. Objects. A person may not operate a motor vehicle with an object placed or hung in or on the vehicle, other than the required or provided equipment of the vehicle, in a manner that obstructs or interferes with the view of the operator through the windshield or prevents the operator from having a clear and full view of the road and conditions of traffic.

3. Parking or identification stickers. A motor vehicle may display no more than one sticker on its windshield for parking or entry identification.

4. Location of inspection stickers. No portion of a sticker other than an inspection sticker may be more than 4 inches from the bottom edge of the windshield. If the inspection sticker is located in the lower left hand corner of the windshield, the other sticker must be located to the right of it.

5. Exception. A motor vehicle of the Maine Emergency Management Agency or used to perform public services of an emergency nature may be identified by a windshield sticker bearing the name or service emblem of the agency authorized to act.

6. Interference with operation. A person may not operate a vehicle when the vehicle is loaded, or there are more than three persons in the front seat and the load or persons obstruct the view of the operator to the front or sides or interfere with the operator’s control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.

7. Placement of stickers on illegally parked vehicles. A person may not place a sticker or other device on the windshield of a motor vehicle parked in a manner that allegedly constitutes trespass by motor vehicle, as defined in Title 17-A, section 404, if the sticker or other device would obstruct the driver’s forward view. 

“A few years ago, legislation was introduced which would require removal of any accumulation of ice and snow (mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/summary.asp?ID=280039394), but the bill went dead and did not become law.

“Safety arguments can still be articulated by observed circumstances where an officer may initiate a stop to require corrective action, but that is NOT clearly specified by specific statute pertaining exactly to this question.

“New Hampshire has such a law, and there is also a stronger worded statute available for Massachusetts to enforce. Common sense should apply where there is no strict statute.

“There have been documented instances of injury resulting, and one could hazard a guess that it might take a tragedy occurring to eventually propel such a law to passage here in Maine.

“The operator of a vehicle having accumulated snow does run a risk of incurring a civil penalty for any damages or injury which might result, if they are identified as causing fault.”

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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