Winter in the Pacific Northwest means road crews will be dumping tons of sand and gravel on icy Oregon roads, which improves traction but takes a toll on windshields. Oregon OSHA Compliance Officer Dan Cram shares some timely information on what can happen if you ignore those chips and cracks.
Visual impairment: A cracked windshield can obstruct your view while you're driving. Cracks on the passenger side also cause problems as you scan your visual field for pedestrians, cars, and other potential road hazards. A small chip or crack may not seem like a problem, but it can spread unexpectedly if it's not repaired. You don't want to be suddenly confronted with an expanded crack that blocks your view.
Support structure: In many vehicles, the windshield also serves as an important part of the vehicle's support structure; a cracked windshield can compromise the vehicle's structural integrity in a crash.
Airbags: Front airbags expand with much force and can send dangerous glass shards flying through the air if it hits a windshield that has been damaged by a crack, putting the driver and passengers at risk.
What does Oregon OSHA say about cracked windshields in passenger vehicles? Oregon OSHA's general industry and construction industry requirements for vehicles state, "There must be no broken glass that impairs the driver's vision." [General Industry: 437-002-2226(4)(b) and Construction: 437-003-3226(4)(b)]
The Federal Motor Carrier Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, says cracks in windshields are OK as long as they're not intersected by other cracks. Here's how they say it in their rule, 393.60(c) Windshield condition:
"With the exception of the conditions listed in paragraphs (c)(1), (c)(2), and (c)(3) of this section, each windshield shall be free of discoloration or damage in the area extending upward from the height of the top of the steering wheel (excluding a 51 mm (2-inch) border at the top of the windshield) and extending from a 25 mm (1-inch) border at each side of the windshield or windshield panel. Exceptions:
- Coloring or tinting which meets the requirements of paragraph (d) of this section.
- Any crack that is not intersected by any other cracks.
- Any damaged area which can be covered by a disc 19 mm (3/4 inch) in diameter if not closer than 76 mm (3 inches) to any other similarly damaged area."
And while we're on the subject of winter driving, here is the Oregon Department of Transportation's link to everything you need to know about traction tires, chains, and snow zones.