- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Snow can be a pretty sight in many places, but the roof or hood of a vehicle is not one of them — especially if the driver ahead of you is sending icy projectiles your way.
While states such as Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey have laws requiring drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles’ hoods and roofs as well as windshields, Maryland only requires that vehicles be clear of snow from windshields and lights, said John B. Townsend, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
When snow freezes into ice and then thaws, it can be particularly dangerous to drivers behind a vehicle that has not been cleaned off, he said. That is especially so for the large tractor trailers that can hurl ice at frighteningly high speeds when traveling down a highway, Townsend said.
“Snow and ice can add as much as two tons of extra weight to a semi-trailer rig,” Townsend said.
Maryland does not attract as much snow as states to the north, but a problem for truckers is that getting to the top of their trailers to clear the snow can be dangerous in itself, especially in bad weather, said Louis Campion, president of the Maryland Motor Truck Association.
“It poses a significant challenge,” he said.
Some companies, such as Wisconsin-based A Better Snow Rake, sell special rakes that can bend enough to scrape snow off the top of high trailers. They come apart for storage in relatively small areas.
But even those rakes don’t really help when there is ice on top of trailers, Campion said. Truck washes can loosen ice and snow, but the lines for those in an average truck stop where there can be more than 100 trucks would be enormously long, he said.
A potential long-term solution that some in the trucking industry are reviewing is to redesign rooftops to impede the formation of ice or make it more difficult for ice to fall off, Campion said.
The Maryland State Highway Administration recommends that all drivers clear off their entire vehicles before setting out, said Charles Gischlar, a spokesman for the agency.
“Since you have to clear off your windshield and lights, it doesn’t take that much longer to clear the entire vehicle,” he said. “Leaving a block of ice on top of your car is a recipe for disaster.”
There have been instances in which people have died because of flying ice. On Christmas Day 2005, Christine Lambert, 51, of Palmer Township, Pa., was killed when an 8-inch-thick piece of ice from a tractor trailer pierced through her vehicle’s windshield.
The next year, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed a snow removal law in which drivers can be fined up to $1,000 if snow or ice from their vehicles causes injury.
Washington, D.C., allows police officers to pull over drivers for traveling with accumulated snow or ice on their vehicles, but the offense does not carry a fine, Townsend said.