are broken windshields illegal in California?

California’s Windshield Law Protects Motorists & Pedestrians

After several years of drought affecting California, California is finally getting some rain; to put it mildly. In fact, the State seems like it is getting rain almost every other day. Unfortunately, the recent rains have allowed us to discover that we have neglected some basic maintenance and repair items. Some of our homes have muddied gutters, leaky rooves and yes, our cars may have defective windshield wipers and inoperable defrost systems.

Did you know that California Vehicle Code section 26710 makes it unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such a defective condition as to impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear?

During the recent drought, many of us let the rubber blades of our windshield wipers become brittle, dry and cracked. We thought about replacing them during the drought but figured they’d just dry out again. After all, we thought California wouldn’t be receiving any rain until the next millennium, and the dry conditions would just dry out the new rubber. Thus, it would be futile to replace our windshield wiper blades.

Well, now, the rain pours on and on and our old blades can’t wipe the rain away. The windshield wipers start grinding against the windshield glass, and we just pray that the blades don’t scratch our windshields beyond repair. After all, windshields can be quite expensive these days—especially windshields containing optical sensors.

However, we have another big worry. We can’t see when we drive. Vision becomes easily obstructed during a storm when our windshield wipers or defrost system fails to operate. We can’t see the cars in front of us nor those persons who are dodging the rain on foot. If we can’t see them, then guess who will be liable for their injuries and property damage? You guessed it—-US. We will be liable for injuries and property damage resulting from obstructed vision. In California, we, as drivers and vehicle owners, had a duty to repair our foggy windshield. We can’t blame the weather.

In addition to monetary liability to those injured and damaged, we can also be cited if we fail to maintain our defrost system, fail to replace our windshield wiper blades and/or allow our windshields to become heavily scratched.

Be safe during this rainy season. Don’t drive with defective windshields.

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