With the winter weather upon us, those of us who live in one of the cold-weather states will be dealing with snow and ice on motor vehicles. Everyone has probably observed, if not experienced, a vehicle covered in snow and ice driving on a highway. Then, without warning, some of the snow and ice break free and hurdle towards the motorists that are behind. Each year thousands of accidents are caused by these snow or ice "missiles."
The problem has become so pervasive that many state legislatures have enacted laws to address the issue. In 2006, Pennsylvania adopted a law requiring the clearing of snow and ice from vehicles. New Jersey adopted a similar law in 2010 and Connecticut followed suit in 2014.
The New Jersey statute is N.J.S.A. 39:4-77.1 and requires that snow and ice must be removed by the operator from all surfaces before the vehicle is operated on the highway. Although the statute imposes a fine for simply operating a vehicle in this condition, if snow and/or ice should become dislodged from a moving vehicle and strike another vehicle or pedestrian causing injury or property damage, more severe penalties can be imposed. In this case, if the offending vehicle is a non-commercial motor vehicle the operator is subject to a minimum fine of $200 and maximum fine of $1000. If the offending vehicle is a commercial vehicle, then the operator, owner, lessee or bailee is subject to a minimum fine of $500 and maximum fine of $1500. Even aside from motor vehicle fines, if snow or ice thrown from your vehicle causes someone to suffer personal injury or property damage, you could also be subject to civil liability and responsibility as well.
So, the simple rule is to "clear the snow before you go". You will be able to not only avoid fines and penalties, but also potential civil liability. If, however, you, a family member or friend are injured as a result of snow or ice that is carelessly propelled from another vehicle, please reach out to us at the Cooper Levenson Personal Injury Practice Group and let us help you secure fair and just compensation for your injuries.