Police watching for 'peephole' drivers as winter nears
As snow and temperatures start to fall, it's "peephole driving" season in the USA.
Many Americans have done it: gone outside to an ice-covered vehicle on a cold winter's morning, chipped just enough ice off the windshield to see through and driven away.
Peephole driving dramatically reduces a driver's field of vision, and it increases the likelihood that snow or ice can become dislodged and hit another vehicle or a pedestrian, according to police and safety advocates.
"Everybody is in such a hurry to get where they've got to go, they don't want to take the time to completely defrost their windows," says Sgt. Scott Kristiansen of the Buffalo Grove Police Department in suburban Chicago. "That puts everybody at risk.
"Reasonable people who would never think of leaving their driveway with worn tires or bad brakes will routinely drive their children to school after scraping just a small peephole with which to see out of the vehicle," says Kristiansen, a 26-year veteran in the village of about 42,000 northwest of Chicago.
In Illinois and some other states, police can cite drivers for obstruction of a window or obstructed vision. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, drivers can be cited if their failure to remove snow or ice causes injury or property damage.
New Jersey strengthened its law last week. Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, signed legislation requiring drivers to "make all reasonable efforts" to remove snow or ice from the roof, hood, trunk and windshield. For truckers, the law applies to the cab, the top of a trailer or semi-trailer and the top of a freight container. Drivers who fail to comply face a $25-$75 fine.
"There are many stories of innocent drivers who have died or been seriously injured because of ice or snow dislodged from a truck or car," says Republican state Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz, a sponsor of the law. "Finally, common-sense legislation that protects drivers by requiring the removal of potential flying debris is now law."
There are no reliable statistics on the number of people hurt or killed because of peephole driving, says David Weinstein, spokesman for AAA clubs of New Jersey. "Often the driver doesn't know what happened and drives away," he says. "Or they do know what happened and know they're culpable and drive away."
Technical Trooper Tim McCool of the Kansas Highway Patrol says he's seen peephole driving increase in his 27-year career as people grow more impatient. He estimates that peephole drivers have 2%-3% of the normal field of vision. As winter looms, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles advises, "Peephole driving is an invitation to disaster."
Reason #126 to not get a car in North Dakota.