Clean the snow off your vehicle or face legal wrath

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

Winter in Michigan sparks a variety of interesting human behavior –motorists driving like they’ve never seen snow before; others bundling up like they’re about to trek to the North Pole; and impatient drivers who decide that despite the foot of snow covering their car, it’s okay to wipe off just a mitten-sized spot on their front windshield before hitting the road.

Most of us find it annoying to have to stand out in the cold, scraping ice and snow off the car with whatever we find handy.  For most of us, there is a 50/50 chance that we will remember to toss the snow scraper in the back seat or trunk after Halloween.

Did you know, however, that if you fail to adequately remove the snow from your car before you start to drive, that you can be ticketed?  Michigan law, specifically 257.677a, reads: “(2) A person shall not remove, or cause to be removed, snow, ice, or slush onto or across a roadway or the shoulder of the roadway in a manner which obstructs the safety vision of the driver of a motor vehicle other than off-road vehicles. (3) A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice, or slush onto or across a roadway or the shoulder of the roadway in a manner which obstructs the safety vision of the driver of a motor vehicle. (4) A person shall not deposit, or cause to be deposited, snow, ice or slush on any roadway or highway.”

Michigan laws dealing with the ability to see your headlights, taillights and driver visibility also come in to play with respect to cleaning off your car.  If you do not clear off the mountain of snow, people are less likely to see your lights, and your headlights are less effective.  Other than some historical cars, you need to have a “device” (a.k.a. windshield wipers) for cleaning snow off of your windshield as well. 
Snow can easily slide off of your car, covering your rear windshield while you are driving.  In addition, the snow can fly off of your vehicle and significantly obstruct the visibility of other drivers.

So if you make a habit of letting the wind clean off your car while driving Michigan’s highways and byways, be prepared to see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, a not-so-pleasant present this holiday season.

(The author is an Attorney Referee at the Washtenaw County Friend of the Court; however, the views expressed in this column are her own. She can be reached at matyjasz@hotmail.com.)

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