Lawmaker says flying ice and snow should be a crime

A lawmaker on Long Island says drivers who leave huge chunks of snow and ice on their vehicles after a snowstorm should be subject to a ticket by the police.

Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper has proposed a bill to require drivers clear their vehicles. He says five other states, including Connecticut and New Jersey, have such laws. He hopes enacting the law in Suffolk County will inspire state lawmakers to follow suit.

Fines for those who fail to clear their vehicles would start at $75. They could rise to as much as $1,500 if the flying snow and ice causes an accident that injures people.

Cooper says his priority is not to collect fines, but to keep people safe. The proposal will be taken up by the county legislature next month.

In Syracuse, many drivers think the law would be a good idea.

"Once you get on the highway, it can get really dangerous," says Marie Schafers. "A sheet of ice flies, and you're already trying not to kill people with the snow, and it makes it a little scarier."

Driver MacKenzie Winne agrees.

"I've been behind cars when the snow's falling off or it goes on your windshield, and you can't see," she says. "I think that's a good idea."

Syracuse police say most winter accidents occur because people drive too fast for the conditions or don't pay attention to the road, but they say it's also important to clean cars off. If the back windshield, front windshield, or windows are covered in snow and ice, drivers can be ticketed for "obstructed view."

"It can lead to crashes," says Capt. Shannon Trice from the Syracuse police department. "Because you can't see outside of the car, you might not see the pedestrian walking on the side of the road. You might not see the car at the intersection making a turn."

Capt. Trice says a law requiring drivers to clean all the snow off their cars may be difficult for Central New York drivers, though, because so much snow falls.

Onondaga County Legislator John Dougherty says he has a lot of questions that would have to be answered before he could support the law here. He says he would want to know how strictly the law would be enforced. For example, what would happen to frequent drivers like taxi drivers, and would drivers would have to stop in the middle of a trip if snow accumulates on their cars. Plus, he says Central New Yorkers are used to snowy cars, and it's unlikely the law will be passed here.

"We're pretty good at driving in the snow," says Dougherty. "I think people make the right choices most of the time, so I don't see there's a real need for it."

We want to know what you think. Should drivers be ticketed for not clearing off their vehicles? Does public safety trump your right to do what you want with your car? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.