Massachusetts experienced a nor’easter overnight on February 1, 2021. While some parts of the state only experienced a small amount of snow before it turned to rain, other cities and towns were hit with more than a foot of snow.
In addition to making the roads slippery and dangerous to drive on, another problem after a storm is seeing drivers on the roads in vehicles that are still covered in snow and ice. Leaving snow or ice on a moving vehicle creates a hazard condition that can lead to serious injury. As such, you might be wondering if there is a Massachusetts law requiring that you clear the snow and ice off your car.
Surprisingly, the answer is no: Massachusetts does not have a law that explicitly states drivers need to clear snow and ice from their vehicles before driving on public roads.
This is different from New Hampshire where “Jessica’s Law”, named after a woman who was killed when ice from a tractor-trailer hit a box truck that ended up hitting her car, requires drivers to remove all snow or ice from their vehicles prior to travel on New Hampshire roads.
However, this doesn’t mean that a Massachusetts resident doesn’t have a legal obligation to clean snow or ice off of their car. There are other state laws that are used by police to cite drivers for failing to clear their vehicles of snow and ice. For example, local police and Massachusetts State Troopers will routinely cite motorist for driving with snow on their vehicles under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 85, Section 36, which covers operating a vehicle with an unsecured load. A violation under this statute will cost a driver $200. If your windshield is covered in ice you could get a $40 ticket for Impeded Operation of a motor vehicle, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 13.
Criminal penalties may also apply. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, Section 23 makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with an obscured license plate. This law can, and has, been applied to drivers who allowed snow to block their license plate.
Additional civil and criminal penalties could apply if falling snow or ice leads to an accident. Drivers are responsible for any accidents caused by snow and ice flying off their vehicles as the obvious danger of not clearing snow and ice off a vehicle makes a driver clearly negligent if it leads to an accident. As such, if you are involved in an accident caused by falling snow and ice, you would have a personal injury claim against the driver of the snow covered vehicle even if there was no contact between the vehicles.
TL;DR = CLEAR ALL THE SNOW AND ICE OFF YOUR CAR BEFORE YOU HURT SOMEONE.
And if you have been injured as a result of someone failing to clean snow or ice off of their vehicle, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for a free consultation.