Ice missiles snowball into cash for state
State Police are aggressively ticketing drivers who ignore Connecticut's new "ice missile" law, which requires motorists to remove all snow and ice from their vehicles.
Since the law took effect Jan. 1, state police have issued at least 230 tickets to truckers and motorists who were driving snow-covered vehicles. At $120 per summons -- the fine is $75, plus $45 in various surcharges -- that amounts to $27,600 in tickets in a month and a half.
"It's an expensive issue," said Lt. J. Paul Vance, the state police spokesman.
"We are telling people to not only plan for extra time when driving in bad weather, but plan for extra time to clean off your car. If snow is on a vehicle and it comes off, you're responsible," Vance said.
Vance could not break down the number of tickets issued to motorists and truck drivers, who face the added burden of clearing snow from tall trailers not easily accessible from the ground.
With 12 significant snowstorms already this winter, motorists are getting plenty of practice removing snow, a task often complicated by freezing rain and low temperatures.
Riley said it's hard enough to remove frozen snow and ice from a car. Trucks, with high cabs and thin trailer roofs, are even more difficult, he pointed out.
"We don't have a good solution to this," he said. "But we are trying to address it. Some companies have put in big swinging brushes to push snow off. We have sold 200 roof rakes designed for trucks. That seems to be a temporary low tech solution."
"We want to talk to state police about how strict this should be," Riley said. "It's almost impossible to get all of it off, and people should not be penalized for a small amount."
He noted a trucker last week received a ticket for a little snow and ice on the side of his trailer.
According to the law, drivers must "remove any accumulated ice or snow from such motor vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof of such motor vehicle, so that any ice or snow accumulated on such vehicle does not pose a threat to persons or property while the vehicle is being operated on any street or highway of this state."
The law was passed in 2010 but implementation was delayed to Jan. 1, 2014, to allow the public to become aware of the regulation and for trucking companies to develop ways to remove snow from big rigs.
If snow falls off a passenger car and damages another vehicle or causes an accident, the operator can be fined $200. Commercial drivers face a $500 fine.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania have enacted similar laws.
"Troopers have investigated many accidents caused by ice and snow coming off trucks and cars," Vance said. "My wife couldn't get the snow off her car. If it won't come off, you have to warm it up."
Although the state's trucking industry successfully fought the so-called "ice missile" legislation for 20 years, one Fairfield County legislator refused to give up.
"When I first brought it up, people laughed at it as though it was a gag," said Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, during a recent interview with Hearst Connecticut Media.
Cafero said he became interested in the issue after his wife, Barbara, was driving to her job in Tarrytown, N.Y., when a chunk of ice from a truck in front of her smashed her windshield. Although she was unharmed, Cafero said he decided to pursue legislation banning snow and ice on vehicles.
"The stuff flies down in a slow-motion nightmare," said Cafero, who is now House minority leader. "Hopefully, if it saves some damage, it's a good thing."
More InformationThe law
Drivers must "remove any accumulated ice or snow from such motor vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof of such motor vehicle, so that any ice or snow accumulated on such vehicle does not pose a threat to persons or property while the vehicle is being operated on any street or highway of this state."
Snow-on-roof fines since Jan. 1, when state law effective:
$120 per summons - $75 plus $45 in surcharges - equals about $27,600 in tickets so far in 2014.
Drivers can face up to a $200 fine -- and commercial drivers a $500 fine -- for snow that damages another vehicle or causes an accident.