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Peephole driving in the winter can be very dangerous

| Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Peephole driving can be quite dangerous.
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Peephole driving in the winter can be very dangerous.

The guy driving through South Greensburg during the first snow of the winter was hard to miss.

He had his head out the window, straddling the middle of the road, in an attempt to see, says Ed Kuszajewski, manager of Greensburg Auto Parts, shaking his own head in bemused disbelief.

That questionable motorist aside, Kuszajewski believes that most people have taken the message to heart that it is just plain dumb, dangerous and potentially expensive to be a “peephole” driver, one that scrapes just enough ice off the windows to “peep” out at the highway while rooting for the heater to hurry up and do the heavy lifting.

It is a summary traffic violation to drive with any ice or snow ”which materially obstructs, obscures or impairs the driver's clear view of the highway or intersecting highway,” says Trooper Adam Reed, public information officer of the Pennsylvania State Police. This applies to the front, back and side windows, and the fine for violation totals over $110 after mandatory costs.

Reed recalls several drivers that only had enough snow cleared off to see out the front window.

“One driver could not see my emergency lights behind them since their back and side windows were not cleared off,” he says.

When snow or ice that has not been removed from other areas, including the roof, hood and trunk, falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian, causing death or serious bodily injury, the $200 to $1,000 fine can be the least of a person's worries.

Trooper Robin Mungo, community relations officer of the State Police's Troop B, Pittsburgh, believes that reality is making more people attentive to the law.

“It was enacted because people were being seriously hurt and dying,” she says. “Drivers don't want to dodge flying sheets of ice or blinding snow.”

She reminds that those using remote starters still need to clear the ice it may help loosen so it does not become “a flying sheet coming at drivers” when the vehicle is in motion.

Mungo's weather tip: “Pay attention to the forecast, and give yourself extra time to clean your car off.”

That's the safest bet, adds Reed. “Not only will it keep you safe, but also other motorists, first responders and maintenance workers that are out keeping our roadways safe and clear,” he says.

Kuszajewski recommends these essentials in this battle against Mother Nature: a can of spray de-icier, lock de-icer and a full window washer reservoir.

“I think that anyone who lives in Western Pennsylvania could tell stories about ‘peephole' drivers who defy the odds during heavy snowstorms,” says Bevi Powell, senior vice president of AAA East Central, Pittsburgh.

Some drivers may underestimate the time that it takes for snow or ice to melt from their vehicles, she says. “Often when they are rushed, they are tempted to rely on the defrosters and windshield wipers to clear their vehicle,” she says.

A few minutes of preventive maintenance, Powell say, will make everyone safer.

Rex Rutkoski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4664 or rrutkoski@tribweb.com.

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