When the Northland enjoys a fresh batch of snow, the cleanup begins across the region and we know there are some do's and don'ts when it comes to snow removal.

For example, not only is it a best practice to avoid pushing or piling snow onto roads, Minnesota law and many local ordinances prohibit the plowing, blowing, shoveling, or otherwise placing of snow onto public roads or sidewalks. This even includes the ditch and right-of-way area along the roads

But, what about vehicles that get buried in snow? Just how much do you legally have to clear your vehicle of snow before hitting the road?

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On my way into work recently in Duluth, we ended up behind this vehicle and the driver obviously couldn't see anything out of their back window. My passenger took the photo and while we never got a good look at the windshield, they did run a red light on their drive so they either couldn't see well or were otherwise distracted. Luckily, they didn't hit anyone.

TSM Duluth
TSM Duluth

According to Minnesota snow laws and related laws, this vehicle was not ready to legally hit the road. First, to be clear, Minnesota Statute 169.71 only requires drivers to clear frost and snow from both their windshields and side windows to prevent accidents created by obstructed vision on the road. While we can't be sure from this angle if this vehicle violated that statute, they did pose other problems.

In Minnesota, ice or snow-covered vehicles can also be found unlawful if cleared improperly in general. That is because ice or snow left on one’s vehicle while driving may be considered an “unsecured load." Minnesota Statute 169.81 states that no vehicle shall be driven if it carries a load that is not secure, “as to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking, blowing, or otherwise escaping therefrom.”

Furthermore, ice or snow caught falling or blowing from a vehicle onto the street can technically be considered by Minnesota Statute 169.42 as littering, and guilty of a misdemeanor.

Another violation this and other drivers violate is regarding the inability to read the license plate. According to Minnesota statute 169.79, it is unlawful to cover any assigned letters and numbers or the name of the state of origin of a license plate with any material, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate's visibility or reflectivity. Therefore, license plates must be readable at any time of year.

Furthermore, Minnesota requires license plates to be displayed on both the front and the back of vehicles. They cannot be placed on the dashboard, or back window or be simply left off.

The bottom line is to be sure to clear your vehicle of snow to the point where you can see out of every window and you eliminate the risk of snow or ice flying off your vehicle to cause harm to another driver. It's also a lot easier to drive where you have a clear vision of your surroundings.

Tips For Winter Driving in the Northland

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