This man’s death is why clearing snow, ice from your car is law
A sad anniversary just passed in New Jersey and Michael Eastman's loved ones were probably the only ones who noticed. It was just over 25 years ago in early February of 1996 when he was driving home to Ridgefield on Route 17. There had been a storm. Much like the ones we're getting pelted with the past several weeks. Same kind of snow, same kind of ice. What's different is now in 2021 you are legally required to clear that snow and ice from your car or you'll face fines.
What happened to Michael is why.
The accident occurred on that stretch of Route 17 running through Paramus. A tractor trailer was out in front of his car as he made his way home from work that day. He never got there. A huge sheet of ice lifted off the top of the trailer and sailed straight through Eastman's windshield striking him in the head and showering him in broken glass. He held on in a hospital for several days but died on February 9, 1996 of brain damage. He was only 46 years old.
His wife Cathy Eastman worked tirelessly pushing for a law. It got the attention of Bill Pascrell who at the time was an assemblyman. It took years, but eventually passed. You can get a small fine if you don't clear that ice and snow off your vehicle, and up to a $1,500 fine if not doing so results in someone getting hurt.
As the legislation was debated many argued such a common sense thing shouldn't be codified and that a tragedy didn't happen often enough to justify it. Cathy Eastman had something to say about that. "I hope to God it never happens to you because then you'll be singing a different tune."
Cathy said back in 2014 that her daughter, planning a wedding at that time, didn't "have her dad to give her away." There has been a grandchild since, and Cathy laments that Michael never got to see his grandchild.
So maybe you don't care about any of this. Maybe you think it's no big deal and that SUV roof is too hard to reach. And that it's not like these tragedies happen every day. You're right. They don't. But the snow and ice removal law isn't only for other people. A build up of ice doesn't exclusively fly backwards off a vehicle. When you've been driving awhile and that car has warmed up, that sheet of ice loosens and if you have to brake suddenly, that ice can come forward, too. It can come sliding off your roof when you brake on a highway and cover your own windshield, blinding you. This happened to an old co-worker of mine. So if you won't do it for people like Cathy Eastman, take the three extra minutes and do it for yourself.
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.