Route 80 Injuries
While traveling on Route 80 in Smithfield Township, Monroe County, a chunk of ice flew off a tractor trailer. It crashed into the windshield of a car, severely injuring the passenger.
The truck driver did not stop and the State Police will not likely be able to identify him.
In fact, because the truck was traveling in the opposite direction on 4-lane route 80, the driver may not even have been aware of the injuries he caused.
Pennsylvania Statutory Law
Although Pennsylvania law requires drivers to clear snow and ice from their windows before driving (75 Pa.C.S.A. §4524), many drivers fail to adequately remove snow and ice from other areas of their vehicles such as the hood and roof.
Large chunks of ice from tractor trailers do the most damage to other cars but ice from passenger vehicles can injure or kill other drivers.
Pennsylvania law has “no teeth” because, although you are required to clean your car, fines can be assessed for roof ice only after it flies off your roof, hits another vehicle, and injures someone.
Here is the statute:
§ 3720. Snow and ice dislodged or falling from moving vehicle
“When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than $ 200 nor more than $ 1,000 for each offense.”
75 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3720.
That’s right. The maximum fine for causing serious injury or killing someone is $1,000.
This doesn’t mean the at-fault driver cannot be sued for money damages. This is just the fine.
Aside from chunks of ice flying off of other vehicles, how often have you seen a driver who scraped just a tiny “porthole” in his windshield and thought it was safe to drive in that condition?
The weather outside might be “frightful” but the way some drivers venture out onto our roadways is downright scary.
Bills to Change the Law Have Stalled
Bills to require removal of snow and ice from cars prior to driving them are frequently introduced but have not yet garnered the necessary support to change the law.
The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown recently reported that State Sen. Lisa Boscola, (D-Northampton County) has been pushing for a bill to increase fines and allow the ticketing of drivers who fail to clear off their entire vehicles within 24 hours of a snowfall.
The newspaper reported that Boscola has been pushing the bill since a Palmer Township woman was killed in 2005 when a slab of ice fell off a moving truck and smashed through her windshield.
“This is completely preventable. We need to act on this NOW to ensure the safety of all that travel on our roads,” Boscola said on social media.
While this is a law that needs to be changed, it is still negligence to drive a vehicle which is in a condition to injure people in other vehicles. In fact, it may be negligence per se and can support the filing of a lawsuit for personal injuries and the damage to your own car.
Hopefully, our legislators in Harrisburg will see this as a “no brainer” and make our Pennsylvania roads safer by passing a law which enables the police to ticket offending vehicles.
Drive safe out there.