Adam Landry of Portland clears snow off his car while trying to get to work on Thursday morning. Landry, who did not have a shovel, said, “If I can’t get out, then I won’t go in (to work).” Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It happened nearly a decade ago, but Angela Wheeler can still see the thick piece of ice flying toward her car.

Wheeler was driving in her Ford Windstar minivan with her four children on Route 196 near her home in the Midcoast when a large sheet of ice flew off an 18-wheeler and smashed into her hood and windshield, sending her careening into a snow bank and leaving her and her 14-year-old son covered in tiny shards of glass.

“I can clearly remember what it looked like – it was this big thick piece of ice and it just came at me like a sheet of plywood,” Wheeler said. “I could see it coming off. Initially, when it hit the windshield and the windshield cracked I thought it was just snow. Then I realized it was the windshield that I was seeing.”

The family was lucky and escaped without injuries.

“I wasn’t going very fast. If it had been in another situation I could have swerved into oncoming traffic,” the Bowdoin resident said. “Who knows what would have happened if I was on the interstate.”

That’s why Wheeler supports a bill that would make it easier for police to crack down on people who fail to remove the snow or ice from their vehicles before hitting the road. The bill, which would give motorists 48 hours after a storm to clear off the snow, will be debated in the Legislature next week.


The Department of Public Safety estimates that about 30 crashes since November were the result of snow or ice falling off one vehicle and landing on another, according to a spokesperson.

Angela Wheeler, of Bowdoin, testified in support in 2019 and shared her experience of having a sheet of ice fly off a tractor-trailer truck and smash into the windshield of her minivan. She had her four kids in the car at the time and ended up in a snowbank. The truck driver didn’t stop. Photo by Reuben Wheeler

Past proposals to outlaw driving with snow- or ice-covered vehicles have failed in recent years, largely because of concerns about their potential impact on commercial trucks and ambiguous language that police said would make it difficult to enforce.

But Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville, is sponsoring a bipartisan bill this session that would allow police to impose fines of $150 to $500 on drivers who do not clear their vehicles within 48 hours of a storm, a grace period that was not included in previous versions. A public hearing on L.D. 522 will be held Tuesday.

“I think we have addressed the concerns from past bills that have prevented it from moving forward,” White said. “Nobody is expected to stop their cars on highways or busy roads to clear off their cars … There will be time for people to clear the snow off.”

If passed, Maine would be only the third state to explicitly outlaw driving with snow on a vehicle, according to Car and Driver magazine.

New Hampshire enacted “Jessica’s Law” in 2001 after Jessica Smith was killed in a multi-vehicle crash caused by flying ice, with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.


And Pennsylvania recently enacted “Christine’s Law,” which sets a fine of $50 for driving a snow-covered car and as much as $1,500 if the snow or ice flies off and injures someone. That law gives people 24 hours from the storm’s end to clear it, according to the National Law Review.

Peter Osborne, of Jay, said he’s surprised that Maine doesn’t already have a similar law. A few winters ago, he was commuting home from his Augusta workplace on Route 133 in Livermore Falls when a “giant sheet” of ice came off an oncoming car and crashed into his car, causing $1,800 worth of damage to his hood and headlights.

“I was lucky that I didn’t have an accident or anything,” Osborne said. “If it hit my windshield or, heaven forbid, came through the windshield it would have been worse.”

Maine law already requires drivers to clear snow from their windshields and at least the driver’s side and passenger’s side windows. A separate law prohibits driving with an “unsecured load,” but it does not mention snow and ice. It says only that a load includes “but is not limited to, firewood, pulpwood, logs, bolts or other material, but does not include loose hay, pea vines, straw, grain or cornstalks.”

Most auto insurance policies cover damage caused by ice and snow, although individual plans vary. New Hampshire’s law means the driver of a vehicle with an ice-covered roof also would have liability coverage to pay for damage to another person’s vehicle in that state, according to New England Risk Management, which serves New Hampshire and Maine.

The Maine State Police has raised concerns about being able to enforce past proposals. The agency also argues in social media posts that the existing law already requires snow and ice removal.


“This is a reminder to remove snow and ice from your vehicle,” the state police said in a Feb. 11, 2022, Facebook post, which included a photo of the splintered windshield of a new Ford Bronco. “If you don’t you may be held liable for damages and injuries caused by ice falling off from your vehicle and striking other vehicles. Maine law requires that any load on a vehicle be properly secured to prevent any portion of it from falling off of the vehicle, this includes snow and ice.”

Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said the department would not take a position on the new bill before the public hearing or work session “out of respect for the legislative process.”

Moss said law enforcement doesn’t specifically keep track of crashes from snow or ice falling from one vehicle onto another, but they do track reportable crashes involving objects that fall from vehicles or are thrown at vehicles. The traffic unit says 93 of these crashes occurred from Nov. 1 through Feb. 23, with about 30 likely caused by snow or ice falling from one vehicle onto another.

Previous efforts to enact a law specific to snow and ice have drawn opposition from trade groups representing commercial truckers, such as the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and the Maine Motor Transport Association. Those associations, as well as the Maine State Police, argued that it would be dangerous to force truckers to pull over during a storm to clear their vehicles of snow.

While some trucking companies have specialized equipment to remove snow from a tractor-trailer trucks, Dana Doran, executive director of the logging association, said in testimony last year that any effort to clear snow manually could violate safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Clearing snow and ice from … a loaded log truck can be a very precarious and often dangerous proposition,” Doran said. “To do this effectively, it would not only be a potential violation of OSHA regulations to require a driver to climb on top of a loaded log truck to clear snow and ice without proper safeguards, but it would also put many log-truck drivers at risk for injury to life and limb.”


White’s proposal to allow a grace period hasn’t erased industry opposition.

“While we appreciate Rep. White’s attempt to allow for 48 hours to clear snow and ice from vehicles, we believe that challenges for the Trucking Industry would still exist,” said Tim Doyle, vice president of the Maine Motor Transport Association. “MMTA will be testifying in opposition to Rep. White’s bill.”

Osborne, on the other hand, hopes the time has finally come to pass the law.

“I’m still surprised this isn’t something that’s on the books despite it coming up what seems like every legislative session,” Osborne said. “It makes sense to me that you would have something enforceable that’s specific to this.”

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