Rachel Cravotta doesn’t think a new state law regulating snow and ice covered vehicles will change the way she gets her Mercedes GLS 550 ready on snowy mornings this winter.
“I’ve got a pretty big SUV — even if I gave it my all, I don’t think I could reach the whole roof,” said Cravotta, a Pittsburgh native who lives in Swisshelm Park. “Who has the time when you’re in a rush in the morning to clear snow from your entire car?”
Under the new measure signed into law by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf this summer, Cravotta and others could face fines if they leave snow or ice on their vehicle more than 24 hours after a heavy snowfall.
Its sponsor, Senator Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, called Christine’s Law, hopes it will prevent tragedies like that of Christine Lambert, a Palmer Township woman who was killed on Christmas Day 2005 when a large chunk of ice fell off a passing panel van detached and crashed through her windshield.
“The law would require you to remove snow and ice from your vehicle and leave it up to the police to stop you if they feel you pose a threat to the highway if there is snow and ice on your vehicle or tractor-trailer have accumulated,” Boscola said. “I’m so excited for the Lambert family – they’ve put so much effort into this.”
Violating the Christine Act carries a fine of $50 per violation, but fines escalate dramatically — ranging from $200 to $1,500 per violation — if snow or ice falls from one moving vehicle and another hits a vehicle or pedestrian, causing death or serious injury.
Contrary to initial media reports, it does not appear that the Pennsylvania police will be able to issue a ticket for leaving a snow-covered car in their driveway or on the street more than 24 hours after a snowfall.
“A driver of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle operated on a motorway of this Commonwealth shall use reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from the motor vehicle or motor vehicle, including the bonnet, trunk and roof of the motor vehicle. ‘ State Police Officer Rocco S. Gagliardi told the Tribune-Review.
“Snow and ice can pose a major hazard to other drivers,” he said. “We are asking that you take the extra few minutes to clear the snow from your vehicle so nothing can be blown off, over or onto another vehicle while you are driving. By taking these extra precautions, we lead to a safer driving experience for everyone.”
That might be a bigger problem for a state cop patrolling Pennsylvania’s freeways than it is for a mere cop working in the city.
Pittsburgh Police spokeswoman Amanda Mueller said snow removal on vehicles “has not been a problem here in the past.”
“Of course, safety always comes first and the police will deal with this issue if necessary,” Mueller said.
The promise of enforcement does not comfort Cravotta, the SUV driver from Swisshelm Park.
“I don’t see any police enforcing sidewalk clearing and there are so many people not complying,” Cravotta said. “Honestly, do you really think it will be enforced? I don’t think you will stop every other car.”
Justin Vellucci is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Justin at [email protected]