Summer is in full swing, but lawmakers in Maine recently had their minds on the winds of winter when they debated a bill that would have penalized motorists who failed to remove ice and snow debris from the roofs of their cars before traveling at faster speeds. It’s already a requirement of motorists in numerous other states, including nearby New Hampshire with Jessica’s Law. Our injury lawyers have learned that the Maine bill, S.B. 1527, has died in committee. This is unfortunate given that the measure had bipartisan backing, and with vigilant enforcement, might have made a notable difference in Maine roadway safety this upcoming winter season.
Had S.B. 1527 passed, it would have amended Sec. 1. 29-A MRSA §2396, sub-§5 (pertaining to unsecured loads) to include a provision fining $250 to any motorist traveling 40 mph or faster on a public way with a “load of solid precipitation on the motor vehicle.” Solid precipitation was defined to include snow, ice, sleet and hail. Exceptions were to be made for “minor amounts” of solid precipitation where a reasonable effort had been made to remove the load, but otherwise, having a lump of snow on the roof of your car would be grounds for a steep fine under the act which would have doubled for second or subsequent offenses. The one major weakness in the measure was that it exempted commercial vehicles, very often the culprit in these cases.
Why Snow and Ice on Cars is So Dangerous
Car accident lawyers know public opinion on car snow and ice removal is somewhat split. Obviously, there are those who say daily snow and ice removal from one’s vehicles is a major hassle. On the flip side, those clumps of debris and shards of ice can cause serious accidents. For example, Jessica’s Law in New Hampshire is named for a teenager who was struck and killed in 1999 by another driver who lost control on the highway when a huge chunk of ice that flew from a box truck smashed his windshield. This January in Wells, Maine, a driver’s entire front windshield was shattered when a hunk of solid ice came flying off another vehicle. In another similar incident that same month in Freeport, a woman and her three daughters narrowly escaped injury when ice from a box truck hurtled their direction and shattered the windshield. In February, a New Hampshire DOT worker was hurt when ice from atop a box truck flew off the back and slammed into the windshield.
Maine Liability for Ice and Snow on a Vehicle
Although the Maine bill did not pass, the state does have a few means of assigning fault and liability to drivers for failing to clear their rooftops, windshields and windows of ice and snow. The basis of failure to use reasonable care, a legal duty all drivers owe to one another, their passengers and other road users like bicyclists and pedestrians, can be grounds for civil liability. In addition, Maine has 29-A MRS §2082, which holds no one can operate a vehicle with opaque or semitransparent material or substance on the front windshield or side windows that obstruct drivers’ views. We also have 29-A MRS §2396, which prohibits anyone from operating a car with an unsecured load. Both these laws can be used to assert liability in civil personal injury lawsuits stemming from a snow-or-ice-related crash.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.