February 20, 2024

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Snow in DC Tuesday: Is it illegal to leave snow on your car roof?

3 min read

The Verify team looked into a question that comes up every time it snows. Are people who choose not to wipe off the snow doing something illegal?

WASHINGTON — The Verify team looked into a question that comes up every time it snows. If you’re out on the roads in the snow, you’re bound to see it. People choosing not to clear snow off the roofs of their cars during winter weather. It can be annoying, and dangerous. But is it illegal in the D.C. region. We spoke with law enforcement to get an answer. Here’s what we learned.


Is it illegal to drive your car without wiping the snow off your roof in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia?


No, there’s no law requiring you to wipe the snow off. However, all jurisdictions recommend it. Some other states, such as New Jersey, have punishments for those who forget to clear their car of snow.



Forgetting to clear off snow from the top of your car can be reckless, but is it illegal in the DMV?

Our Verify researchers called police departments in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. They confirmed that there are no laws on the books requiring you to clean snow off your roof. 

The only relevant law on the books in Maryland is found in Transportation Code §21-1104 which generally says don’t obstruct another driver’s view:

 “A person may not drive a vehicle if it is so loaded or there is in the front seat so many passengers as to:

(1) Obstruct the view of the driver to the front or sides of the vehicle;  or

(2) Interfere with the control of the driver over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.”

However, cleaning snow from your car is still recommended by all three jurisdictions and is listed in Maryland and Virginia’s official state driver’s manuals

In both Maryland and Virginia, lawmakers introduced bills that would impose fines of $25 and $100, respectively, on anyone with snow on their roofs. Both bills died in committee

“Years ago, [D.C.] Council passed emergency legislation requiring people to clean off their cars before driving them, but they never made that law permanent,” Metropolitan Police Department spokesperson Alaina Gertz said.

Other states do have punishments in place for those who do not wipe off their cars. 

For example, in New Jersey drivers can face a fine of $25 to $75, “regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle.” If the flying ice or snow causes property damage or injury, those fines jump to $200 to $1,000. 

RELATED: Tips for driving in wintry conditions

RELATED: VERIFYING 5 claims about staying warm and protecting your home from the cold

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2020.

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2024-01-19 12:38:18

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