867 tickets and counting: NJ cops crack down on snow-covered cars
You hear it during and after every snowstorm: clear your vehicle of ice and snow before hitting the road. Not doing so is actually against the law.
But if you're willing to take a gamble and see what you can get away with, just know New Jersey cops are taking this law seriously, and they may be cracking down now more than ever.
Between January and February of 2017, municipal police departments in New Jersey handed out 867 tickets to motorists who failed to remove ice and snow from their vehicles before driving, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts. And this hasn't been a very active winter in terms of precipitation.
More than 300 summonses were delivered in Bergen County, the data show. The second-largest number of tickets (84) was registered in Middlesex County.
This year's numbers already surpass the number of tickets handed out in all of 2016 — 838, according to the data, with Bergen and Middlesex Counties leading the pack.
Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino said the numbers are likely elevated in the county due to population and miles of highway. Seventy municipal departments operate in Bergen County.
"It could be a matter of life or death — something as simple as getting the ice off your car," he said.
New Jersey State Police Capt. Brian Polite said drivers who break the law are affecting other drivers' visibility, as well as their own.
"If we see that violation, we will take action, absolutely," Polite said. "It's a serious problem."
So far in 2017, State Police Troopers have issued 245 warnings and summonses on the matter. That's up from 216 over the same period last year.
Polite called out New Jersey's "tank commanders" — a nickname given to drivers who clear off only a small portion of their windshield so they can see just enough.
"If you've taken the time before you left in the morning to remove the snow and ice from your vehicle, you expect other motorists to do the same," he said. "I think that law enforcement does have the public's side on this issue."
Motorists who violate the law are subject to fines ranging from $25 to $75. But the penalty could hit $1,000 if snow or ice from your vehicle causes property damage or injury to others.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.