Beware of 'peephole driving' -- it's dangerous and illegal

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Clearing a frosted windshield before hitting the road seems to be a matter of common sense, but a story in the Star Tribune offers a reminder that motorists who don't take the time to do the job thoroughly can get in a real scrape.

Peering through a small opening is known as “peephole driving.” The teeny porthole can prevent what the story calls "doofus drivers" from seeing "...pedestrians at crosswalks, cars in adjoining lanes, hapless bicyclists, leashless dogs and other clueless drivers."

“Just like we tell people it’s going to take you a little longer to get places, it’s going to take a little longer to clear off your car,” said Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol. He said that a citation for obscured vision can cost upwards of $130. Other states take the offense more seriously. Pennsylvania drivers must remove all ice and snow from a vehicle’s hood, roof and windshield before taking off. If snow or ice flies off the car and causes an accident or injury, drivers can be fined up to $1,000. New Jersey drivers also must clear hoods, roofs and windshields or face fines of $25 to $75.

The danger of doing an inadequate job clearing a windshield can have lethal consequences. Last October, 21-year-old Robert Tofstad pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide for killing an 85-year-old woman in February 2012 in Winona. Police said that if Tofstad had cleared the frost off his windshield, he likely would have seen Ruth Brendel walking across the street on the way to church. The Winona Daily News reported that investigators observed that the right side of Tofstad's windshield and all the side windows of the car were frosted over, with only a portion of the driver's windshield cleared.

At the time of the sentencing, KTTC in Rochester reported that the judge ordered Tofstad to be jailed for the weekend closest to the anniversary of Brendel's death for the ten year duration of his probation.

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