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Don’t scrape by with ‘peephole driving’

Ice storm aftermath seems like a good time to remind drivers of this often clouded-over safety issue

Published December 24, 2013
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Hey you! Yeah, you — peering out from the tiny opening you managed to scrape from the ice on your windshield. You’re driving us crazy and you’re a public nuisance.

It’s called “peephole driving,” the death-defying belief that peering through a dessert-plate-sized porthole in your windshield enables you to see pedestrians at crosswalks, cars in adjoining lanes, hapless bicyclists, leashless dogs and other clueless drivers.

We suspect you don’t care what we think, but clearing your car of snow and ice is the law. Legalities are almost beside the point, though, given that few things jack up a driver’s blood pressure in winter more than the sight of you rolling along in your two-ton igloos.

“If someone drove during the summer with cardboard taped to their windows, they would be ticketed,” said Caroline Thoms of Scandia, Minn. “It’s part of living in the snow belt. You have to take the time to scrape.”

And there it is: the sad-but-true fact that, once it starts snowing, living where the frost is a regular occurrence takes more time.

MCT Information Services

Just like it’s going to take you a little longer to get places, it’s going to take a little longer to clear off your car. Just plan on taking that extra time.

Joe Zahner used to be a peephole driver. “Of course, I had an excuse because I was new to Minnesota from California,” he said.

“I had a couple of scares and have changed my ways,” he said.

Now he starts his car, parked outdoors, then scrapes as it warms up. “That helps to clean off the snow and ice from the windows.”

Wasting fuel? Maybe. But he’s found that the easier scraping (and then climbing into a warmed-up car) “is worth the 25 to 50 cents expended.”

One more tip: After years of keeping his snow brush and scraper in the trunk, Zahner learned that it’s better to keep them tucked somewhere in the front seat. In sight, in mind.

Subsidizing an idling car makes more sense than risking an expensive ticket for obscured vision ( or worse, hitting someone).

While the law says only that windshield and front side windows must not be obscured “to such an extent as to prevent proper vision,” the safest drivers brush snow from their hoods, roofs, rear windows, headlights and taillights.

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