Virginia bill making it illegal to not clear your car off after snow frozen in its tracks

Delegate Mike Mullin of Newport News says one group standing in the way

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The weekend snow has come and gone, but we're still feeling the effects as a Campbell County man is left to deal with costly repairs to his car after flying ice drilled him on the highway. And as it turns out, he's not alone, and state lawmakers tried to make it illegal, but this is a fight frozen in its tracks.

Many people clear just enough of the car to be passable and while that may seem fine, it's putting other drivers at serious risk. Scott Elvira knew his commute the day after the storm was going to be a tough one and he left extra early because of it. But he never expected what happened to him next.

"A sheet of ice just kind of flew right off, spun a little in the air and I just knew 'oh this is going to be bad,'" Elvira recalled. "It kind of slid off and started spinning, and went smash, you can see the crack all right here in the windshield."

A giant hunk of ice fell off a car roof and straight into Elvira's windshield. His car's hood is also all scratched up as well, and his situation is not unique.

"All that snow came flying off the back of the car, hit my vehicle going 65 miles per hour and I had to swerve and it darn near killed me," Delegate Mike Mullin of Virginia's 93rd District said.

Mullin was driving back home to his district in Newport News from Richmond last year when it happened. It's why he introduced HB 207, making it a traffic offense to not clear your car.

"When I looked it up, I had always thought that it was mandatory that somebody clear off their car, but it turns out it's not," Mullin said.

Now, a year later, it's highly encouraged but still not mandatory. The bill never made it out of subcommittee last year, and will not be re-introduced this year because Mullin and his allies expect the same fate. He said tractor trailer lobbyists stand in the way, claiming it would be tough to manage.

"In all frankness they handle that without problem in a number of states throughout the Northeast and the Midwest, and I seriously believe that this is a public safety issue," Mullin said.

It's illegal in about a third of states across the country, so Mullin hopes to eventually re-introduce the bill with more support. In the mean time, Elvira just wants people to think about everyone else, because he knows his hit could have been worse.

"It really could have, I just hope that people take the time and scrape the ice off your car, it doesn't take very long," Elvira said.

Ice scrapers and household brooms make good tools to get the job done. Avoid using the scraper part on anything but the car's glass as it could scratch the paint, and don't think you can take a shortcut by dumping hot water on the car to melt the snow and ice as that could cause your vehicle's glass to heat rapidly and crack.

"Sometimes tragedy sparks change but I would hope that no one ends up dying on I-81 because of someone being negligent with ice on their vehicle, and I just hope that never even happens," Mullin said.

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