DOVER — Eighteen-year-old Kyla Woolley, a Dover High School senior, had quite the scare Sunday, when a sheet of ice flew off the car in front of her on Route 16 in Newington, striking the windshield of her vehicle. It landed in large chunks and frosted up, blocking nearly all of her field of view. She said it nearly caused her to drive into the guardrail on Little Bay Bridge.
“My heart just stopped because I knew that it was coming right for me,” Woolley said. “I couldn’t see in front of me at all, all I could see was out my side windows and mirror. The wipers weren’t helping, so I started honking, put on my hazards, and tried to pull over in the most right lane. I could feel the rumble strip, and when I looked out my passenger window, I was so close to driving off the bridge that I couldn’t see the rails.”
New Hampshire State Police say they responded to more than 40 similar calls over the weekend and into Monday after Friday’s snow and ice storm blanketed the Seacoast with more than an inch of ice. Reports started pouring in of busted windshields from ice flying off the roofs of vehicles on local roads and highways.
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Failing to clear snow and ice off your car before driving in New Hampshire is a violation of Jessica’s Law. The law was established after the 2001 death of Jessica Smith, who was killed at age 20 in Peterborough when ice flew off a tractor-trailer truck, causing a second truck to veer and collide with her car. The legislation passed in 2002. Those that don’t comply can be charged with negligent driving and be fined.
#Troopers have continued to respond to calls for service involving vehicles that have been struck with ice while traveling on the roadway. ?
Many of these calls resulted in minor damage or a cracked windshield.
You must remove all snow & ice prior to driving – it’s the law! pic.twitter.com/CLNKYIPQxt
— New Hampshire State Police (@NH_StatePolice) February 7, 2022
Woolley said she pulled over and called for help, but the experience was traumatizing. Luckily, her windshield held up but many others last weekend were not as lucky. Woolley said it’s incredibly frustrating, because if the driver in front of her had taken the time to clear off their car, the incident would not have happened.
“I want people to remember that no amount of time is too much when it comes to saving someone’s life,” she said. “Even if you’re going to be late, it can take an extra five or 10 minutes to clear off your car. You could be saving someone’s life or saving yourself from violating the law.”
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Kyla Woolley’s mother, Crista, said she hopes people take the law more seriously.
“I just can’t express what it’s like to get a message like that from your child,” Crista said Monday. “You can try to keep them safe and end up at the mercy of others. To realize that someone could have hurt or killed her because they didn’t take the time to do the right thing is so scary. I’m so grateful that she’s OK. Even today, I saw plenty of uncleared cars on the road.”
‘It’s incredibly dangerous’
State Police said Monday they were continuing to respond to calls for service involving vehicles that have been struck with ice while traveling on the roadway. While most of the vehicles sustained minor damage and there were no serious injuries, some say this is a reminder of why Jessica’s Law was enacted.
There were multiple accidents in the Seacoast since Saturday along the Spaulding Turnpike in Dover and Rochester, Route 101 in Exeter, Interstate 95 in Portsmouth and Seabrook and Route 16 in Portsmouth, according to State Police.
Capt. Christopher Vetter, commander of the New Hampshire Office of Highway Safety, urged drivers to abide by Jessica’s Law and fully clear any snow or ice off their vehicles before hitting the roads.
“It’s incredibly dangerous for you and others on the road,” Vetter said.
Vetter said taking the law seriously is especially important after weather events like Friday’s storm, where inches of snow and ice accumulated and quickly froze. He said the biggest reason people don’t clear their roofs is often due to time, since breaking the ice off the roof can be difficult and hard to reach. He said no matter the reason, failure to clear your vehicle is breaking the law.
“If you strike a piece of ice at highway speed of 60 to 65 miles an hour with such force that it breaks your windshield, it essentially becomes a projectile when it flies off the car,” Vetter said. “It’s not just the impact, you have to worry about if the people in the vehicle are able to maintain control of their car after they’re struck, and if they can see out of the broken windshield. We have been enforcing and educating drivers on the law.”
Dover resident Jamie Wixson posted to a local group page on Facebook about the importance of Jessica’s Law after passing an accident on the Spaulding on Friday. He drives to and from Massachusetts for work, and said he lost count of the number of vehicles with sheets of ice flying on the highway, and the number of times he had to dodge ice,
“We were coming back from Rochester on the Spaulding. There was a Chevy Silverado on the side of the road with the driver’s side windshield smashed in,” Wixson said.
Wixson said while this particular storm produced ice that was very difficult to clear, it’s vital to take the time.
“Especially in the type of storm that we had, where you have the rain and slush that freezes solid, it’s extremely difficult to get off,” Wixson said. “People try to scrape it off at home and think, ‘It’s frozen solid, it will be fine.’ You have to let your vehicle run for a while at home with the heat blasting. Once the inside of the vehicle warms up it tends to fall apart easier. If you don’t, all it takes is one pothole, a sudden stop or bump in the road to send that ice flying behind you or sliding down your own windshield.”