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'Snowy Roofs Can Be Deadly': Paramus Police Warn Motorists 25 Years After Fatal Accident

A Paramus police officer pulls over a motorist with rooftop snow Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.
A Paramus police officer pulls over a motorist with rooftop snow Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. Photo Credit: Special to Daily Voice

Drive around with snow on top of your car in New Jersey and risk a $25 to $75 ticket.

That law isn't taken lightly in Paramus, where 25 years ago nearly to the day, a 45-year-old motorist lost his life to a chunk of flying ice.

Paramus officers this week are making a special effort to ensure it doesn't happen again.

"Even though [ticketing cars with snowy roofs] is not the only thing we do, after a fresh snow, it becomes a priority for us," Paramus Police Officer Michael Mullay told Daily Voice.

Twenty-four citations for snow-covered rooftops were issued in the borough during the morning rush alone on Wednesday, Feb. 3, the officer said.

"Most of the cars this morning were not bad," Mullay said. "But you could tell some drivers didn’t even make an effort to clean their vehicles at all. The snow was hanging off the tops and the back, flying off as they drove."

The latter vehicles are exactly the type that Paramus officers have been keeping keen eyes for, Paramus Deputy Chief Rob Guidetti says.

In 1996, Guidetti was among the first on scene of the Route 17 accident that killed 45-year-old Michael Eastman.

"I was responding to a disabled motor vehicle on the side of the road and, upon arrival, found the driver with serious injuries in the front seat of his car," Guidetti recalled. "Apparently, ice came off the roof of a truck and went through the windshield of Michael Eastman’s car."

Eastman died of brain damage days later. It wasn't long before his wife, Cathy Eastman, began pushing for a law to ensure that same didn't happen to anyone else's loved ones.

The first, a law passed that imposes fines of between $500 and $1,500 for motorists whose snowy and icy rooftops cause injury or damage. The second, a 2011 law that made New Jersey the first state to require motorists clean the roofs of their vehicles within 24 hours of snowfall.

Fail to do so and risk fines like the officers in Paramus issued Wednesday morning.

"Paramus sits in the crossroads of Bergen County where we have State Routes 4, 17 and the Garden State Parkway all running through us," Guidetti said. "Our officers are making a valiant effort to get out there.

"We have many accidents in Paramus because of the major highways," Guidetti said. "However, not cleaning the mounds of snow off your car is not an accident, it's the operator being lazy."

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