During periods of heavy snow, most Mainers know the importance of clearing excess snow off the roofs of their homes. Unfortunately, far too many people in this state appear to be ignorant of the importance of clearing substantial amounts of snow and ice off the roofs of their vehicles as well.
We’ve all seen the occasional car or pickup on which the driver cleared only a small hole for viewing out the windshield and then headed out into traffic, apparently expecting others to compensate for their lack of vital visibility. Current Maine law requires that motorists clear off windshields, side windows and rear windows before hitting the road. Failure to do so not only violates that law but also repudiates common sense. These drivers may be in a hurry, but who isn’t? There’s no excuse for putting themselves, their passengers and especially others at risk of serious injury.
Police are so busy on snow days dealing with traffic accidents and such, there is seldom time to pull someone over for not clearing their windows.
In recent years, there has been some discussion in Maine about whether the state should adopt a law requiring that the roofs of vehicles also be cleared of snow.
The sudden loosing of massive chunks of snow, or worse even, sheets of crusty ice, from the roof of a vehicle ahead of us in traffic or in the oncoming lane can cause major damage. Windshields have been smashed, roofs and hoods dented, and innocent motorists have been startled enough to lose control, causing an accident.
The ready availability of extendable brushes and scrapers removes any excuse for not properly clearing off most noncommercial vehicles before driving off. Even an old broom can do the trick. Granted, it may not be easy on a large SUV, but on small cars, where the roof is barely at armpit level, there’s no excuse at all.
Six years ago, a bill was introduced in the Maine Legislature to require roof cleaning. Opponents managed to get it killed, arguing adoption would just perpetuate the “Nanny State,” in which folks expect government to protect them from every inconvenience. But legislating safety rules, when common sense is in short supply, is appropriate.
Whether or not Maine needs a new law to compel people to totally remove snow from their vehicles remains to be seen. Certainly a ramped-up public education effort is warranted. Folks need to be reminded that a driver’s responsibility goes beyond just assuring the safe arrival of themselves and their passengers. Being a good winter driver requires extra caution to prevent nothing being done, either overtly or by omission, to endanger others.