The Maine State Police have decided to support the latest effort to require car and truck drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles after a storm, saying the inclusion of a 48-hour grace period makes the legislation reasonable and enforceable.

“This bill seems like a commonsense approach,” Lt. Bruce Scott, head of the state police traffic division, told the Legislature’s Transportation Committee during a hearing Thursday on the legislation proposed by Rep. Bruce White, D-Waterville.

Alice Grace, 88, clears snow and ice from her Nissan sedan Monday near her home on John Avenue in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“I do think it’s enforceable the way that it is written,” Scott said.

In past legislative sessions, Maine State Police have opposed multiple snow-and-ice removal proposals, a position that helped ensure those measures were defeated in the Legislature.

Enforcement of the law would be implemented on a commonsense basis, Scott said. Troopers will not be watching the clock and pulling over vehicles 48 hours after a storm ends, and no one will be forced to pull over in the middle of a storm to clear snow. And truck drivers will be given time to clear the tops of their rigs safely and within workplace safety guidelines.

The Department of Public Safety estimates that about 30 crashes since November resulted from snow or ice falling off one vehicle and landing on another. 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.


White’s bipartisan bill will allow police to impose fines of $150 to $500 on drivers who do not clear their vehicles within 48 hours of a storm.

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.

Police sometimes use an existing state law governing unsecured loads to cite drivers with snow or ice on their vehicles, Scott said, but only in those cases when an officer believes the snow or ice poses a threat to public safety. White’s bill will allow officers to pull over a vehicle before the ice or snow causes damage or injury.

Members of the Transportation Committee will spend the coming weeks debating the bill before a final vote is taken. Some of the committee members did express skepticism about unintended consequences such as forcing truck drivers to put their lives at risk by climbing on to rigs to clear snow and ice.

But, White, who serves on the Transportation Committee, believes his proposal has the support it needs for passage.

“If (a rig’s load) poses a significant safety risk it can lead to deadly consequences,” he said.



Though L.D. 522 has won support from state police, not everyone who uses Maine’s roads and highways believes the legislation will be effective. The commercial trucking industry is opposed, including the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine and the Maine Motor Transport Association.

Dana A. Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, expressed the group’s opposition to the bill in written testimony. Doran said his organization is the “voice of Maine’s logging and trucking industry.”

“From our perspective, snow and ice are a blessing and a curse,” Doran said. “Logging contractors long for cold weather when the ground freezes to limit environmental impact, but it often creates havoc with the transportation network that is involved with moving fiber to the market.”

Doran said his group has three major concerns, with the most significant being trying to determine when snow fell on a tree that is loaded onto a log trailer. Doran asked if the law would apply to every tree on a load and to log trailers that have sat idle for days with snow from previous storms accumulated on them.

“This (law) not only adds significant expense but quite possibly defies common sense,” he said. Doran said log truck drivers risk slipping, tripping or falling while clearing snow and ice to secure a load.


“Clearing snow and ice from a loaded truck can be very precarious and often dangerous proposition,” he said. “To do this effectively, it would not only be a potential violation of OSHA regulations, but would put many log truck drivers at risk for injury to life and limb.”

“From our perspective, this bill is well intended, but it pits the driver against uncontrollable conditions, and it also creates a burden which could cause more risk than was intended, as well as significant cost,” Doran said.

Lisa Evans of Waterville supports White’s bill. Evans testified that she and her husband were driving on Interstate 295 through Portland and were passing a large truck when a 4-inch thick piece of ice slid off the truck and slammed into her windshield. Evans could not see through the sheet of ice, but was able to lean over and look through a hole in the windshield on the passenger side that allowed her to pull off the highway.

“The truck kept going,” Evans testified. “I was astounded to find out when the police officer came that Maine does not have a law against this. I was a sitting duck and how we didn’t die, how my husband wasn’t impaled, the police officer couldn’t believe it.”

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