The Maine State Police have decided to support the latest effort to require car and truck drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles after a storm, saying the inclusion of a 48-hour grace period makes the legislation reasonable and enforceable.
In past legislative sessions, Maine State Police have opposed multiple snow-and-ice removal proposals, a position that helped ensure those measures were defeated in the Legislature.
Enforcement of the law would be implemented on a commonsense basis. Troopers will not be watching the clock and pulling over vehicles 48 hours after a storm ends, and no one will be forced to pull over in the middle of a storm to clear snow. And truck drivers will be given time to clear the tops of their rigs safely and within workplace safety guidelines.
The Department of Public Safety estimates that about 30 crashes since November resulted from snow or ice falling off one vehicle and landing on another. Past proposals to outlaw driving with snow- or ice-covered vehicles have failed in recent years, largely because of concerns about their potential impact on commercial trucks and ambiguous language that police said would make it difficult to enforce.
White’s bipartisan bill will allow police to impose fines of $150 to $500 on drivers who do not clear their vehicles within 48 hours of a storm.
If passed, Maine would be only the third state to explicitly outlaw driving with snow on a vehicle, according to Car and Driver magazine. New Hampshire enacted “Jessica’s Law” in 2001 after Jessica Smith was killed in a multi-vehicle crash caused by flying ice, with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.
Police sometimes use an existing state law governing unsecured loads to cite drivers with snow or ice on their vehicles, Scott said, but only in those cases when an officer believes the snow or ice poses a threat to public safety. White’s bill will allow officers to pull over a vehicle before the ice or snow causes damage or injury.
Members of the Transportation Committee will spend the coming weeks debating the bill before a final vote is taken. Some of the committee members did express skepticism about unintended consequences such as forcing truck drivers to put their lives at risk by climbing on to rigs to clear snow and ice.
Though L.D. 522 has won support from state police, not everyone who uses Maine’s roads and highways believes the legislation will be effective. The commercial trucking industry is opposed, including the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and the Maine Motor Transport Association. The reason for concern is due to truck drivers having to the dangers of clearing snow and ice from a loaded truck, which can be very precarious and often dangerous proposition. To do so effectively, it would not only be a potential violation of OSHA regulations, but would put many truck drivers at risk for injury to life and limb. The bill sponsor and members of the trucking industry have discussed possible amendments to carve out commercial motor vehicles.