Can I get a ticket for a damaged windshield?
Florida statute 316.610 reads: It is a violation of this chapter for any person to drive or move, or for the owner or his or her duly authorized representative to cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved, on any highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person or property, or which does not contain those parts or is not at all times equipped with such lamps and other equipment in proper condition and adjustment as required in this chapter, or which is equipped in any manner in violation of this chapter, or for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required under this chapter.
In case you just skipped over the technical jargon, it means the police can stop you if they believe your car is unsafe, like a damaged windshield. Also, it is a primary offense, meaning you do not have to be doing anything else wrong for them to stop you. You can have your hands at “ten and two”, going three miles under the speed limit and maintaining your car in the lane perfectly…but if your windshield is cracked, you may still see sirens in your rearview mirror.
What’s the Outcome?
You can be facing a variety of unfavorable outcomes. If the police officer lets you off with a warning, then you will still have to spend several anxiety filled minutes alongside the road. If the police officer writes you a ticket, then you will either have to pay it or get the windshield fixed within 30 days AND either mail in proof of the correction or bring proof (depending on the county) to the county clerk’s office where you were ticketed. However, if the police officer decides your vehicle is not safe to drive, then you could be forced to have it towed at a substantial cost…and, of course, the ticket. While the last scenario may seem unlikely, Florida Statutes do not specify what the measurements, length, or placement of windshield damage would be to render a vehicle unsafe to drive. Therefore, it is up to the police officer’s discretion.
Is the windshield chipped or cracked?
If you experienced minor damage (usually defined as “chipped), then you may opt for a repair. If you experience major damage, like from a car accident, then you probably will want it replaced. Four elements go into determining if your vehicle merely needs a repair:
- Will a dollar bill cover up the damage?
- Do you have more than three chips?
- Is the damaged area in your line of sight?
- Is the damage on the edge of the windshield?
If the answer to all of these questions is “No,” then it is usually safe to have the windshield repaired.
Windshield Replacements vs. Repair
Granted, a new windshield sounds better than repairing an old one, but that’s only true if you are getting the windshield from the factory. Florida Statute 627.7288 only requires that the new windshield be of “same fit, quality and performance.” It does not have to be an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) part. Perhaps it is just as good as the factory windshield, and perhaps it fits just perfectly into your vehicle, but it is a gamble. While there are some individuals who will go their entire lives without ever being in a car accident, most people will have to deal with a broken windshield at some point. If and when you need it, we hope these tips will provide you with the knowledge you need to handle your repair (or replacement) as safely as possible.