It’s a sight we’ve all witnessed in the wake of winter storms – vehicles, still covered in ice or snow, making their way along the roadway.
The windshield, in most cases, is at least partially clear – after all, some degree of visibility, no matter how limited, is needed to proceed. The roof, side windows and mirrors, however, can often be a very different story.
On any roadway, such vehicles pose a significant danger. Any limits on visibility create the risk of a needless collision, particularly when roads are slick or narrowed.
On the highway, the peril is magnified exponentially. At higher speeds, the likelihood of unclear ice and snow becoming dislodged – and turning into a high-speed obstacle or projectile for other drivers – is increased. All of us, too, have seen this in action – sheets of snow flying from the top of a minivan, box truck or tractor trailer, for example.
This is based on anecdotal evidence, of course. But a quick online search found some high-profile cases in which the dangers created by uncleared vehicles almost led to profoundly tragic consequences.
A January report from WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, recounts an incident in which ice from a minivan crashed into the driver’s side windshield of a county plow truck. Luckily, the driver walked away with minor injuries.
Local readers and viewers may recall a recent February incident in which a 6-year-old girl was injured after ice flew off a tractor trailer and smashed a car’s windshield on I-495 in Massachusetts. The story received attention from a number of outlets. Thankfully, the girl, too, was mostly unscathed.
Rhode Island law requires motorists to clear snow and ice from their vehicles before hitting the road or face an $85 fine. Rhode Island State Police posted a reminder about the rule on social media after the latest story, advising drivers to “clear the snow before you go.”
We are fortunate that our state has taken such a step to improve roadway safety during inclement weather. Ultimately, however, compliance relies on individual choices.
For the most part, we have been spared winter’s worst this year. But when storms have struck, members of our communities have done what they always do during this season – pitched in to shovel out, or otherwise help, neighbors in need; moved vehicles or stayed home, if possible, to allow plow drivers to do their jobs; and, by and large, ensured their own vehicles are clear and safe before getting behind the wheel.
We ask those who might try to slip by without clearing their cars to think of the potential consequences. Is avoiding a relatively minor inconvenience worth the safety, or the life, of another person? Is it worth your own?