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It Is Technically Legal to NOT Completely Clear the Snow from Your Car in Michigan

Rejoice, lazy commuters!

Michigan has no law explicitly requiring you to remove every last bit of snow from your vehicle before driving. However, there are a few items that will need to be cleared off prior to setting out. Just a few.

First of all, you will want to clear the windshield. Snow and ice would obstruct the vision of the driver, which is super annoying and goes against MCL 257.709. You don’t necessarily have to clear the rear glass, so long as your side windows are clear enough for you to use the (adjusted to compensate) side mirrors. Either method is acceptable, as long as the operator maintains “a clear view of the highway behind the vehicle”.

Yeah, you’re probably going to be using your wipers too, so make sure that they’re not stuck. Frozen wipers, or wipers that do nothing but rub bars of ice across the glass, could hardly be described as “maintained in good working order” per section 257.709.

Also, without a “clearly visible” license plate, you’re a sitting duck for cops. So to avoid otherwise unnecessary traffic stops, make sure that the plate is “maintained free from foreign materials that obscure or partially obscure the registration information”, in accordance with MCL 257.225.

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If it’s dark out, you’re gonna want some light, so make sure that the headlamps are capable of revealing “persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead” (MCL 257.699). Of course, you’ll want other drivers to be able to see you too, so ensure that your tail lamps are clear enough to “emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear” according to MCL 257.686. Speaking of section 257.686, don’t forget the license plate lamp(s)! Even at night, those plates have to be legible from at least 50 feet away.

And even during the day, with the sun shining on them, turn signals and stop lamps have to be “seen and distinguished from a distance of 100 feet” (MCL 257.697), so make sure people can see those!

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And that’s pretty much it, IF you’re going to drive super-slowly. Be very careful not to disturb any of the remaining snow on the car as you drive, because if it flies up onto or slides down over the windows, you’ll have to break out the snow brush again. And don’t let it fall onto the roadway either, because that would create a hazard in violation of MCL 257.677a.

But it’s not just your windows and the roadway that you need to be concerned about snow shifting. Section 257.677a also warns against allowing snow to fly or fall where it could affect the vision of other drivers. Creating a whiteout behind you could be just as dangerous as depositing snow onto somebody’s windshield.

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So if you’re okay with creeping along at a snail’s pace, feel free to leave some snow on car. Just make sure that no one else is around, so that your inching along doesn’t obstruct traffic (MCL 257.676b).

And there you have it! Once you’ve removed the absolute minimum amount of snow from your car, feel free to put that snowbrush away because all the rest of the snow can stay!

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...if there’s any snow left, I mean.

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