Winter driving isn’t much fun, unless you’re in an empty parking lot whipping donuts out, right? Nobody likes waking up in the morning and getting stuck on the side of the road because your commute is featuring the inch thick ice you were dreading the night before. Winter is a risky time of the year in general, but the risk only gets worse when you’re driving around with a foot of snow on the roof of your car.

Driving with snow piled on top of your car is dangerous for many reasons, the first being it could fall within your line of visibility. Snow melts as your vehicle heats up, but it also could slowly slide down the front of your vehicle, or could abruptly shift and block your sight when driving. This is an issue for obvious reasons. Windshield wipers are great, but they’re made for rain. The best practice is to eliminate the snow from your roof, windows and mirrors before you drive anywhere.

As snow melts and refreezes on the roof of your vehicle, it creates small pieces of ice, that accumulate and become larger hunks. Imagine driving down the highway and having a missile launch from the vehicle in front of you. This can cause cosmetic damage to the vehicle behind you, or could potentially cause an accident to the unsuspecting driver. Even if your ice chunk doesn’t hit another vehicle, it could cause road obstruction which is just as dangerous. We’ve all seen sheets of snow fall off of a semi as they haul their loads down the freeway, so next time you leave, think about clearing off as much as you can to save your fellow commuters.

In the state of Minnesota, it is not illegal to drive with snow piled upon your vehicle. You could, however, be pulled over for driving with an obstructed view. You may also be held liable if for any damage caused by snow falling off of your vehicle onto one behind you, as it violates the Unsecured Load Law in Minnesota. State Patrol advises drivers that if their vehicles are damaged due to ice or snow falling off of a vehicle in front of you to attempt to capture the license plate and contact the police department to seek reparations for the damages. You as a driver should be responsible and remove the snow from your vehicle prior to utilizing your vehicle after a snowfall.

When in doubt, clean that snow off! Nobody wants to be stuck in the cold taking care of this annoying task, but the reality is that you are doing your due diligence as a licensed driver by ensuring you are operating your vehicle safely. Using a soft bristle snow brush should get the job done, and allowing your vehicle to heat up will warm the ice and snow on top of your vehicle, allowing it to slough off with your brush easily. Give yourself the extra five minutes in the morning, save yourself the fine, and potentially save somebody else’s life.