Car accidents caused by snow and ice are, of course, common in Illinois. Some of those accidents were easily avoidable, if only drivers had just taken the time to properly clean off all of the snow and scrape the ice completely from their vehicles. Drivers who are careless about clearing off their cars risk not only a ticket, but being held responsible if they cause an accident.
Illinois law requires snow and ice to be removed from cars before driving
Chicago area drivers are familiar with the hassles of having to brush off snow and scrape off ice from their cars’ windshield in the winter. No one likes having to stand in the cold to clean off a car after a snow storm. Scraping ice from a window is the worst, and no one has time for it. Does Illinois actually require drivers to brush off the snow and scrape ice before driving away? And if so, how clean is good enough?
Everyone knows that a clean and clear windshield is important when driving. It is not just harder to see out of a snowy or icy windshield, but it also puts everyone at a greatly increased risk for an accident. An iced over windshield will significantly obscure vision. Even the glare from melting snow on the windows can be dangerous. For this reason, Illinois has a law requiring drivers to clear the ice and snow before hitting the road. The law says: “No person shall drive a motor vehicle with snow, ice, moisture or other material on any of the windows or mirrors, which materially obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway”. 625 ILCS 5/12-503(d).
While the law does not specify “how clean” a car needs to be, the key is whether or not it materially obstructs a driver’s view. A few flakes or a small ‘missed spot’ is not likely to be a big deal. Notice that the law does not say that only the front windshield needs to be clear, but all windows and mirrors are important. Drivers in Illinois can be pulled over and fined for driving with too much snow or ice on their cars, but the real problems occur when there is an accident.
Please do not make the mistake of only partially cleaning off your car, hoping that the rest will melt or blow away as you drive. You could cause an accident before that happens. Allow yourself extra time in bad weather to make sure that your car is as clear of snow and ice as possible.
Clean Vehicle Roofs to Avoid flying ice and chunks of snow
All Illinois drivers have a legal duty to protect others on the roadway. This duty extends to making sure that vehicle roofs are clean in the winter. Drivers who are sloppy about cleaning off all parts of their cars or trucks can face serious consequences.
We have probably all seen huge chunks of ice flying off the roof of a truck in the winter, hurling it through the air. It is scary and distracting for others driving near it. Cars may swerve to avoid flying slabs of snow, causing an accident. The offending driver with the snowy roof many continue on, completely unaware that he or she just caused an accident. These kinds of winter accidents happen all of the time in Illinois, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Please do not drive with slabs of snow still on the roof of your car. If you are driving near a vehicle with mounds of snow piled on top, safely distance yourself to avoid becoming involved in a winter accident.
Fault for Accidents Caused by Snow and Ice on a Car
In Illinois, a driver will be held liable for any car accident that is at least half their fault. If someone is driving a car that was not properly cleared of snow or ice, that person is very likely to be found at fault. This will be either due to decreased visibility or the slabs of snow that fly off. In other words, drivers who cause an accident can be sued if they didn’t bother to properly clean off their vehicle in winter weather.
What to do if Injured in an Accident because of Snow or Ice on Another Vehicle
If you were injured in an accident with a car that smashed into yours when the driver couldn’t see beyond the ice and snow on their car, you have a very good chance of winning your case. Hopefully the investigating police officer will have noted the snow and ice on the other vehicle, and issued them a ticket. If it is safe to take pictures of the scene, do it before the ice and snow has melted away.
If you were injured in a car accident because of flying ice and snow, you may also have a legal claim. If the offending car drove off, unaware that they caused an accident, hopefully you will have caught their license plate. Most likely, you won’t have had a chance to jot down the license plate number. In this instance, you might be able to recover for your damages and injuries by going through your own insurance company. Claims against one’s own insurance companies when an unidentified and at-fault vehicle was involved are challenging but not impossible. If an independent witness saw what happened, your chances at success increase.
There are some steps you should take right away if you were seriously hurt by a careless driver who did not properly clear their vehicle in the winter:
- Seek medical attention for your injuries to avoid feeling worse. Your well being should be everyone’s first priority.
- If you did not make a police report, you should do so.
- Talk to an attorney before you speak to the insurance company of the other driver, to avoid falling into typical insurance company traps. We will be happy to speak with you. Give us a call at 630 250-8813 to set up a complimentary strategy session.