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Here’s Why You Always Clean the Snow and Ice off Your Vehicle

After a snowstorm, it is imperative to always clean all of the snow and ice off your vehicle. Not most of it. Not just the stuff that’s easy to reach. All of it. Allow me to explain exactly why.

In mid-April, I hit the road with my girlfriend and our two dogs, headed for Moab in a Tacoma TRD Pro press vehicle. We were all loaded up with camping gear for the weekend and were excited to be on the road early and headed to southern Utah for the first time this year.

Weather during that time of the year can be all over the place. After a week of warm, spring temperatures, winter had returned overnight and we had awoken to a dusting of snow in the Salt Lake Valley. When we got on the road at around 9:30 am, we noticed other parts of the state must have seen a bit more accumulation than we did, as there were cars driving down the highway wearing far more snow than what had fallen in our area.

As the weather started to warm up, the highway became wet and slushy from the snow melting off the cars. And then, about 30 minutes into our drive, as I was traveling southbound on I-15 in the far left lane, I noticed a shadow out of the corner of my eye of a baseball bat-size chunk of ice that had flown off a semi truck. I didn’t have much choice but to stay the course and brace for impact.


The chunk of ice had landed square on the Tacoma’s windshield, right in my line of sight. It took me a second to process the extent of the damage, as the ice had disintegrated on impact, splaying out across the windshield. Underneath it all, the glass had exploded. All because someone couldn’t be bothered to spend the extra time that morning to clean off their vehicle.

After surveying the damage, it isn’t out of the question to think that with a little more force, the ice could’ve come through the windshield altogether — something that isn’t unheard of in this situation. Luckily, this didn’t happen, and everyone was safe: In our case, the damage amounted to nothing more than a ruined windshield, and we were able to turn around, go home and work on getting it fixed as quickly as possible.

Not everyone is this lucky, though: Every year, there are accidents, serious injuries and even deaths from people failing to properly clean off their vehicles in winter weather.

Statistics show that many of these accidents occur in warm-weather states, where nearly every snowfall is of the unexpected variety and motorists are less likely to possess the proper snow-removal equipment. Additionally, as was the case with my incident, tractor trailers are often the culprit, as very few trucking companies invest in the proper equipment for snow and ice removal.

Despite these risks, only 12 states subject drivers to fines for driving with snow on their vehicles.

So I implore you, readers of Oversteer: Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. Remember that cleaning snow and ice off of your vehicle is just as much about protecting other drivers as it is about enabling you to see out of your windows. It is of the utmost importance to always, always, always do a thorough job, and to encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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  1. Thankfully it has not caused me any harm, but, living in Vermont, this is way more common than it needs to be.

  2. Unfortunately, it’s one thing to subject drivers to fines and another to actually enforce it. I live in CT where these fines are in place but this issue is still all too common. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone pulled over with snow on their roof either. With the rise (no pun intended) in SUV/CUV sales, this issue is only bound to get worse. 

    • Was coming here to say this, it’s been probably 5 years since the laws went into effect but I STILL see plenty of people driving around with mount everest on their roof

    • I know, it seems like its more likely to be an add-on fine.  Get pulled over for speeding, be less than nice to the cop, or he’s just had a bad day, and he docks you for snow on your roof just because he can.

  3. Couldn’t agree more.  I had an entire sheet of ice slide off the top of a semi trailer when on the outside lane of a corner turning right on the freeway going 60mph, and right onto my hood and windshield.  I was lucky I didn’t crash.

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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