With so many cars on the road, it's easy for your windshield to suffer damage. Whether it's a ding, a crack chip, or a combination break, a damaged windshield can obscure your visibility. As such, state and federal laws hold drivers responsible for repairs to certain types of windshield damage. If you're currently driving with a broken windshield, find out if you're breaking any laws, and the penalties you could face if you don't fix the problem.
Safety standards for glazing materials
The glazing material in your windshield should meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 205. This standard protects passengers from objects that may penetrate the glass and minimizes injuries if the car's occupant goes through the windshield.
Windshields that meet this standard are generally only effective if the glazing is entirely intact, and even a small amount of damage can interfere with the protection the glass offers. As such, federal law also mandates when drivers must repair damage to the windshield.
What the Department of Transportation says
To make sure that windshields continue to protect the occupants of your car, Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations mean that it is an offense to drive a vehicle with a windshield with excessive damage. You cannot drive with windshield damage that extends upwards from the top of the steering wheel or extends further than one inch from each side of the windshield or windshield panel.
The rules exclude some types of damage, including:
- A crack that does not intersect another crack
- Any damage that you can cover with a 19mm disc (as long as this is not closer than 76mm to another area of damage)
It's dangerous to drive with a broken windshield. Even if you decide to drive to the repair shop as soon as you notice the problem, a traffic police officer can stop you for violating federal or state laws. For complete peace of mind, you should arrange a recovery service to take your car into the repair shop.
State traffic laws can extend beyond federal laws, and drivers with broken windshields may face other penalties. All states mandate that windshield damage should not impair the driver's visibility, but traffic officers can often decide if they think the damage is dangerous. State laws often restrict how insurance companies can treat claims for damaged windshields. For example, in many cases, state laws ban insurance companies from using aftermarket windshields. In other places, state laws may insist that you have a certain type of coverage to insure you against windshield damage.
Traffic infractions and violations
If you break a state traffic law, the offense is either an infraction or a violation. An infraction is a less serious offense that the courts do not define as a crime. In most cases, an infraction will result in a fine. Most traffic tickets are infractions. A violation is a more serious offense, which the courts will treat as a crime. If you commit a very serious offense (such as dangerous driving), you could face a misdemeanor charge.
If you drive with a broken windshield, a traffic cop may stop you and issue you with a fix-it ticket for a vehicle maintenance infraction. Excessive muffler noise, missing license plates and broken headlights can all result in this type of infraction.
Penalties for vehicle maintenance infractions
If a traffic officer issues you with a fix-it ticket, you must repair the damage. You may also need to pay a fine. In some states, a traffic officer may issue you with a 'Notice to Correct Violation'. If you ignore this notice, the police may complain to the court. You could then face a $1000 fine or six months in jail.
You should check your local state laws to find out what you need to do to prove that you have corrected a non-moving violation. You may need to go to court, or you may simply need to send a document.
A broken windshield is more than a nuisance, and it's important to fix the damage as quickly as possible. Don't drive with a damaged windshield, or you could run into problems with the law. Check out the site here, or similar ones, to start your search for windshield replacement or repair.