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Answer Man: Can dirty car windows lead to a ticket?

September 20, 2018

Dear Answer Man: Recently I’ve noticed a car (technically a Jeep-like vehicle or SUV) near my office that has a really dirty back window. I’m not talking about the cutesy “clean me” back window, I’m talking about covered in mud or dust that is no longer see through. I know that you can get in trouble for not clearing snow off car windows, but does that apply to dirt, too? — Clean window enthusiast

Dear enthused: It’s still September, so please don’t talk to me about snow. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the short answer is yes. But no one comes to the Answer Man for brevity, so here’s the long answer.

Minnesota Stature 169.71 subdivision 3 states; “No person shall drive any motor vehicle with the windshield or front side windows covered with steam or frost to such an extent as to prevent proper vision.”

Yes, the statute specifically names steam and frost (and the windshield and front side windows) but it also says “proper vision” and that’s key, according to the law enforcement officials the Answer Man consulted.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Troy Christiansen said dirt and mud can obscure your view the same as frost or the not-to-be-mentioned precipitation.

“You need to be able to see out of your rear window,” he said.

And if you get stopped for it, it’s a criminal charge – an equipment violation.

“Realistically, being stopped for that is not going to be a high priority, just because there are so many other things going on,” Christiansen said. “We kind of focus on the four main factors — unsafe speed, unbelted motorists, distracted driving and DWIs.”

Christiansen said that when troopers deal with vision obstruction issues it is more often in relation to the windshield than the back window. Air fresheners, handicapped placards and GPS devices can all create an obstruction big enough to cover up a motorcycle or a small car, he said.

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