Is It Illegal To Drive With Snow On Your Car In NY? Yes & No
Every time it snows in Upstate New York you see that driver: snow piled high on the car, maybe a little porthole scraped and cleaned off just enough to see out of the front window, desperately trying to get to work on time after doing the bare minimum.
And good luck if you’re driving anywhere near that car when it gets past 60mph. If you’re stuck behind the snowmobile, you’re suddenly driving in a snowball fight in a white-out. As your car is pelted with chunks of ice and snow you think “that has to be illegal, right?” Yes and no.
Defrosting the Debate
Let’s start with the obvious one - your windows. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles says:
"Under New York State law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with anything that obstructs the driver’s view. Additionally, license plates must be visible, headlights should provide adequate illumination, and all lights should be visible to other motorists."
This means that your windows need to be entirely clear, not just a little porthole carved out or hanging your head out the side window to see (it’s been done). You need to give your car’s defrosters enough time to thaw your windshields before heading out.
Also, clean snow and ice off your lights and license plates. Go ahead and brush the snow off your hood, too. If that starts blowing off, it’ll block your windshield. So what about the roof and truck/bed snow?
There Outta Be A Law
In 2015, an amendment to NYS traffic and vehicle law was introduced to make driving with any accumulated snow, sleet, or hail illegal and punishable by a fine. The state’s portion of the money collected would go to a “snow and ice removal fund” to help the NYSDOT and the Thruway authority.
This amendment never made it out of the New York Senate Transportation Committee. Similar proposed amendments have also all failed in 2009, 2011, and 2013. So, driving with six inches of snow on the roof of your car is somehow entirely legal, as long as it doesn’t cover your windows - just know you’re a real jerk. Thanks for making your failure to wake up on time our problem. Anyway, be safe and happy winter driving!