Is It Illegal to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?

Illegal to Drive With a Cracked Windshield

Every driver on the road needs to have a clear unobstructed sight of his road to drive safely. There should not be anything that obstructs him be it devices mounted on the screen, tinting and cracks on the windshield. Resultantly the US has federal laws and rules that seeks to govern the windscreen condition that every car should be in. Every driver has to know that cracked windshield laws of any given state in the US apply only to you when driving in that particular state and they change as you go to another state. It is therefore advisable to make sure that you familiarize yourself with the cracked windshield laws of the state you intend to visit. It is not allowed in the US to drive with a cracked windshield. This law is applicable to all public vehicles like public transport, buses and all private vehicles. The law applies to all vehicles with windshields including tractors and loaders and fire engines.

Why A Cracked Windshield Is Dangerous

Cracks on the windshield around driver’s eye level or any point where driver’s view can be substantially obstructed are dangerous. With time the cracks collects dirt and wiper fluids embedding themselves into the cracks leading to discoloration or blur of the windshield. Cracked windscreen laws slightly differ from state to state in the US and the penalties attached thereto are also different from state to state. These laws are important to minimize risks associated with driving cars with cracked windshields. They lay out the severity and distribution of cracks that are legal for driving within the US as per state statutes.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The US federal law has mainly three conditions which gives the scope of what is described as legal driving with cracked windshield. These conditions though slightly different from state to state are basically the major conditions applicable to any vehicle to be driven in state roads. The conditions are discussed further below.

Crack Size and Distribution

The federal state regulations states that an area of damage on the windscreen such as a chip is permitted and deemed legal for driving under such a condition provided that it is smaller than three quarter inch in diameter and is not within three inches of another damage. This is one of the guideline on the nature of cracks that are permissible for a driver to drive with cracked windshield. This makes any driver driving with a cracked windscreen not meeting the requirements mentioned above to be illegally driving and susceptible to a fine from law enforcement authorities. Various states have different fines for illegally driving with windshield that violates the mentioned law. For California, these defects are not standardized and therefore it’s the discretion of the officer to determine whether the cracks can impair the driver’s view.

Online research for New York pegs the ticket for an obstructed view at around $150 with a second offense within 18 months attracting a fine of up to $300. The state also pegs surcharge fee of up to $93 and two points on the driver’s license. Third offense fine can go to as much as $450.

Cracks Obstructing Driver’s View

The second requirement of the federal state laws stipulates that windshields must be free from any damage in area from the top of the steering wheel up to within two inches of the top of the windshield. Any vehicle that has a crack on any position directly above the steering wheel and within two inches from the top of the windshield is deemed illegal for driving on the state road in the US. It is advisable therefore that drivers should always send their cars for repairs to avoid being found on the wrong side of the law.

Non-intersecting Cracks

This is the third condition that has to be met within the scope of state federal regulations for a driver to be allowed to drive legally with a cracked windshield. The federal regulations requires that a single crack is permissible if it does not obstruct the driver’s windshield view and is not intersected by other cracks. These three conditions mentioned here determines whether a driver can drive or not drive legally with cracked windshield. All of the conditions have to be met. If one of the conditions is not satisfied the driver is not allowed to drive otherwise he will be charged with illegal driving with cracked windshield.

These laws on windshield covers also other issues including window tinting and prohibition on obstructions to the driver’s field of view by items like devices mounted at the top of the windshield. Devices like transponders and antennas and any other similar devices must be mounted less than 6 inches below the upper edge of the windshield and must be located outside the driver’s sight view lines to road signs and signals. These devices are also required to be outside the area swept by the windshield wipers and every driver should be familiar with these federal laws to avoid being fined and encourage safe driving in state roads.


From this discussion it can be seen that it is not true to say it is illegal to drive with cracked windshield. Certain conditions have to be met for a cracked vehicle windshield to be said it’s illegal for state road driving but however it is not recommended for safety reasons. It is also not correct to say it is legal to drive with cracked windshield like mentioned above. What makes it illegal are the conditions laid out in the federal law.

It is important to note that while it may be legal within the scope of federal law requirements to drive with cracked windshield under certain conditions, that not a valid reason to do so because it is not safe. Windshields helps the driver and passengers from bad weather and other foreign objects like birds or any object from outside. They are strong and capable of withstanding extreme impact being made from laminated safety glass. With these cracks foreign objects can gain access and cause impairment of the driver’s vision increasing risks of road accidents.