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Can you get a ticket for not clearing snow off your car?

The ability to see clearly out of your vehicle during winter is paramount to safe driving. But is it illegal to drive with snow on your windows?

Published January 9, 2012
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The ability to see clearly out of your vehicle is vital to safe driving. After all, if you can’t see it, how can you avoid it?

At no time of the year is this more relevant than in winter time. Mother Nature is trying to block your outward vision while making your vehicle more difficult to see by other motorists.

To increase your safety, always remove all the snow that has accumulated on your vehicle before driving. This includes the roof, trunk area, hood and all lights.

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Failing to clean the snow off your roof will only mean that as you drive, it will blow back and cover your rear window reducing your outward vision. If it doesn’t all settle on your rear window, it will blow back on to someone else’s vehicle.

Leaving the snow on your vehicle can also damage your own vehicle even if you do not run into anyone.

A few years ago, when we had that freeze — thaw — freeze style winter weather, I watched as a motorist demolished their windshield wipers by simply coming to a stop. The heavy snow-ice they refused to clear off their minivans’ roof, slid down across the windshield and sheared off the wiper assembly.

Weeks earlier, a pickup truck driver almost ran into the rear of a truck when he applied the brakes only to have the wet heavy snow on the cabs’ roof slide down over the windshield. The snow was too heavy for the wipers and he drove the next few hundred metres blind until he could get stopped and brush the snow off the windshield.

It is not worth leaving the snow on your vehicle when a few moments and a little effort can have it cleared off.

When cleaning the snow or ice from your windshield, be sure to clear the wiper blades and windshield washer nozzles so they will work when called upon.

It is also illegal to drive with your windows blocked by snow or ice. The Highway Traffic Act, Section 74 states that “No person shall drive a motor vehicle upon a highway, (a) unless the windshield and windows either side of the compartment containing the steering wheel (all windows)….. afford the driver a clear view to the front and side of the motor vehicle; and (b) unless the rear window is in such condition to afford the driver a clear view to the rear…”

In other words all the windows must be kept clear to afford the driver an unobstructed view. This includes snow and ice along with signs, trinkets hanging from the rear view mirror, etc. that some people actually stick in their windows.

To avoid being charged under Section 74 and to be as safe as possible, always clean all the snow off your vehicle.

This rule also applies to keeping the inside of the windows clear of fog or frost.

The best way to keep windows clear of fog or frost is to keep the inside of your vehicle as dry as possible. This can be done by asking your passengers to clean the snow and slush off their boots or shoes before entering your vehicle. This comes as an extra benefit from the driver changing into shoes from winter boots to drive. Driving in winter boots can be dangerous, so by changing into shoes before driving you will reduce the amount of snow and slush the driver brings into the vehicle.

Use the vehicle’s air conditioner to clear fog from the windows. The air conditioner is a great dehumidifier and works extremely well to clear fogged windows even in the winter. Some vehicles will automatically turn on the air conditioning when the driver selects the defrost mode for the windshield. If your vehicle does not do this automatically, you will have to turn the air conditioning to “on”.

If your vehicle does not have air conditioning or it is not working, usually opening a side window or rear side window about an inch will allow cool drier air from outside to circulate and clear the windows.

Read your owner’s manual so you can learn how to maximize the settings to clear windows and keep them clear of fog or frost.

Keeping ice and snow off all your lights, including tail lights will mean you are more visible to the other drivers.

The more you can see and the more others can see you, the safer you will be.