If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it does it make a sound? If a law is on the books but it’s hardly ever enforced does it make a difference?

Some mild winters we don’t think much about it. But a winter like this with a huge nor’easter a week ago and a bunch more snow coming this week you might remember there’s a law about not clearing ice and snow off of cars and trucks. The law states you are to make all reasonable efforts to remove this before operating a vehicle.

We’ve all seen the jerk who is driving through a porthole size view carved out of the wintry mess on their windshield or the guy who looks like his car is an igloo on wheels. I had a minor inconvenience on my way to work recently where my wipers were set on intermittent to handle that nasty mist of snow and road salt kicked up by other tires. Well there was a small box truck in front of me who hadn’t cleared snow and ice from the roof and sure enough about a two square foot slab flew off directly into my windshield just as the wiper was engaging. I hit the brakes to see my driver’s side blade dangling. Thinking it just popped off and could pop right back on I paid no attention to the truck and just pulled off to fix it. Problem was it broke it right half. Cost me over an hour of time to replace it.

But that’s petty compared to the reason we have such a law. In 1996, 46-year-old Michael Eastman was driving on Rt. 17 in Paramus when a chunk of ice flew off a truck and came right through Michael’s windshield. He died of brain damage. An assemblyman at the time Bill Pascrell fought for the law that would force people to clear snow and ice before driving.

It eventually was enacted, but in the 10 years since it became law how many tickets have really been issued?

Not nearly enough in my opinion.

NJ.com just ran some numbers and they are disappointing. The state judiciary offered up statistics for a five year span covering 2016 to 2020. In a half decade fewer than 3,000 people have been cited. As NJ.com points out, that’s out of over 6 million drivers in the state. Are we to believe only 1 in 10,000 drivers are leaving dangerous ice and snow on their cars and trucks in a given year? Not a chance. And it’s one of the easiest fractions to spot.

It’s too easy to just say police are being lazy. During a mild winter it happens less. During heavy snows, police likely don’t have the resources to go after these fools because they are already overburdened with responding to accidents and motorist assists. During that nor’easter we just had NJ State Police alone responded to 743 crashes by that Tuesday morning. That’s more than the average number of tickets in a given winter for failure to clear ice and snow.

The point is, yes tickets are written. And if it’s not enough it’s not likely to change because when we need those tickets written the most is when police are the most busy dealing with bigger issues. So how about if you’re one of the people that routinely does this and you’re reading this, could you please give us all 5 more minutes of your time when it snows and just do the right thing without it being to avoid a ticket?

Michael Eastman’s widow would certainly appreciate it.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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