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Ask a trooper: Snow-covered windows make for unsafe driving

Q: What are the laws regarding cleaning snow and ice off of your vehicle before driving? After a recent snowfall I saw many vehicles going down the road with snow flying off of their cars into the field of vision of the drivers behind them. Also, I often see vehicles with ice and snow covering all of their windows except a small area directly in front of the driver.

Can you also explain the laws regarding driving too fast for road conditions? I have been driving in this area for almost 40 years and with very few exceptions, the hundreds of accidents, fender benders and cars stuck in the snow that I have seen have been caused by improper, careless, distracted and just plain stupid driving.

A: I am always talking about these things on radio shows, too, especially now. The law does not specify "clean ice and snow off your vehicle before driving" but there are several laws that would indicate that you can't drive with obscured vision, covered lights, covered windows, covered license plates, etc. You could be charged with careless driving, too.

As far as driving too fast for conditions, Minnesota State Statute 169.14 subdivision 1 states: "No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions. Every driver is responsible for becoming and remaining aware of the actual and potential hazards then existing on the highway and must use due care in operating a vehicle. In every event speed shall be so restricted as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care."

If it is raining or snowing, or if other hazards exist, then driving the speed limit is too fast and you need to slow down for all the hazards you may encounter (such as road, weather, lighting or traffic conditions). Use common sense and slow down immediately when any hazard is noticed and be prepared to stop. Officers will make their observations and take action accordingly. Most crashes occur because of driver error, and driving too fast for conditions is near the top.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.