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A truck that's not completely cleared of snow makes its way down Broad Street in Pawcatuck Tuesday. A new law makes a vehicle like this subject to a fine in Connecticut. | (Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun)

R.I. tougher than Conn. on ‘ice missile’ scofflaws

A recently enacted Connecticut law fines drivers who fail to clear vehicles of ice and snow which can create hazardous conditions for others on the roadways. With the legislation came some hefty fines to discourage repeat offenders, say those who supported the ice missile law which went into effect Jan. 1.

Meanwhile, Westerly’s town ordinance regarding snow removal from vehicles comes with a greater fine for scofflaws. And the towns of Hopkinton, Charlestown and Richmond follow the state law which provides for a larger fine.

The Connecticut law was passed in 2010, but implementation was delayed to allow information to be given to the public and in particular to those in commercial trucking businesses where snow and ice removal can be more burdensome.

Reports indicate Connecticut State Police are vigorously targeting drivers of snow-covered vehicles that are plentiful in a year of double-digit snowstorms thus far. Statistics from state police indicate about 230 tickets have been issued. Drivers can be fined $75 for failing to remove ice or snow that poses a threat. A noncommercial operator can be fined from $200 to $1,000 if failure to remove snow results in personal injury or property damage.

The largest fines go to commercial truckers,who can be fined from $500 to $1,250 if personal injury is the result of failure to remove ice or snow from a truck. Trucking companies have been tasked with finding ways that allows drivers to remove snow from the top of the vehicle as they make their way along their routes.

Sgt. Bryan Schneider said Stonington police have not yet issued any citations under the new law. He said it is likely officers, unless the offense is particularly egregious, will use a vehicle stop as an opportunity to inform the drivers of the law and the expensive consequences of not following it. He said if a driver does not heed the warning when first educated about the law, a ticket would likely be issued. And again, he said once the public is familiar with the law there would maybe be less leeway from officers.

Schneider said he believes the bigger issues occur on the highways where drivers, particularly of large trucks, are traveling at a higher speed when ice and snow fly off the vehicle and in the path of traffic.

Schneider said he’s found that an obstructed windshield, one with ice that has not been cleared, causes a dangerous situation for others, especially for a pedestrian. That violation is covered under a different statute, he said.

Westerly’s ordinance, based on Rhode Island general law, carries a fine of $85, and is contained under its town ordinance governing general snow removal. According to Lt. Michael Carreiro, since January 2012, police have made 22 motor vehicle stops based on snow removal laws with 18 verbal warnings and four citations issued.

The ordinance stipulates that “no person shall drive any motor vehicle with any significant amounts of snow or ice upon the vehicle.” Significant according to the law, is any amount of accumulation that when blowing off would obscure the vision of another operator. The ordinance adds snow that accumulates while driving during adverse weather conditions and blows off the vehicle would not be considered a violation of the law.

Trucking companies are reportedly trying to come up with a portable device that will allow drivers to more easily clear off their rigs to remain compliant with the law.

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