Your car is covered with a layer of snow and ice. You pull out your scraper, clear off part of the windshield, get behind the wheel, and drive off. You're now a "peephole" driver.
Even people who love winter weather can get annoyed with what feels like an endless cycle of clearing snow and ice off of their vehicles. While it might be tempting to save yourself a few minutes of time and effort by not cleaning off your entire car, that's a dangerous gamble to take.
It's also against the law. In Pennsylvania, only removing snow from the front windshield isn't considered sufficient for safe driving and can result in fines of up to $110.
Below are five common excuses for "peephole" driving and why they don't hold up.
Would you skip strapping your kids in a car seat because you're running a few minutes behind? Probably not. Leaving snow and ice on your car windows should also be a safety risk you're not willing to take.
According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 95% of car accidents are caused by human error. Why not do everything you can to take that error out of the equation? Obeying traffic laws, putting your cell phone away, wearing a seat belt, and making sure your car is free of snow and ice are all things you can control when it comes to preventing car accidents.
Check out these winter driving hacks that will help you save time and stay safe.
Clearing off a patch of the windshield directly in front of you can give you a false sense of confidence. Sure, you might be able to see some hazards that are straight ahead, but that's not the only thing that matters.
First, your peripheral vision (which lets you see things off to the side) is greatly decreased or even eliminated altogether. This is important because peripheral vision is sensitive to light and motion. It helps us detect events that are happening off to the side – like a person or animal entering the street or a car coming into your lane.
If you don't clear off your back windshield, you obviously won't be able to see what's coming from behind – an important piece of information when you want to do things like change lanes.
There are several problems with this approach. First, your car has to actually heat up before the defrost works, and this can take several minutes at least – especially in older model cars. Anything can happen in those few minutes of driving. Winter conditions in particular pose a number of threats with every minute you drive – ice patches, hidden pot holes, etc.
In newer cars, the defrost air heats up quickly, and hitting your frozen windshield with a blast of hot air can cause it to shatter. Rear windows, because they are made differently, are even more likely to shatter.
You should give your car a few minutes to heat up, turn on the defroster, and then clear ice and snow.
The NHTSA reports that approximately 52% of all accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home. So don't trick yourself into thinking that you're less vulnerable to a car accident because you're only driving down the road.
Here's a fun fact: Pennsylvania has a snow and ice removal law. It states that drivers can be held responsible if snow or ice from their car causes an accident that results in damages or injury. Fines for this offense range from $200 - $2,000, but you could also face civil or criminal charges.
Taking a few extra minutes to clear the snow and ice from your car goes a long way towards preventing accidents, and we encourage you to check out all of our resources for safe winter driving. Not every accident is preventable, however, and if you were injured in a car accident and have questions, feel free to get in touch with us.