Is it illegal to Drive with a Cracked Windshield?

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Driving with a cracked windshield can be more than just a nuisance; it may also be a legal issue. In the United States, traffic laws are primarily enforced at the state level, and regulations regarding the condition of a vehicle’s windshield vary from state to state. However, there are general principles and federal guidelines that apply across the country.

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Federal Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets standards for commercial vehicles, and while these standards do not apply to all passenger vehicles, they can influence state laws. According to the FMCSA, a windshield must be free of any damage in the area swept by the wipers that could obstruct the driver’s view.

State Regulations

Each state has its own vehicle code that drivers must adhere to, which includes regulations about windshield condition.

Common Provisions Include:

  • Visibility: Cracks or chips that do not interfere with the driver’s line of sight may be permissible.
  • Size and Location: Many states have specific regulations about the size and location of cracks or chips that are allowable.
  • Crack Patterns: Certain types of cracks, such as ‘bull’s eye’ or ‘star’ cracks, may be subject to specific regulations based on their potential to spread or impair visibility.

Enforcement and Penalties

  • Safety Inspections: Some states require regular vehicle safety inspections, during which windshield integrity will be checked.
  • Traffic Stops: A police officer may cite a driver for a cracked windshield if it is deemed to obstruct the driver’s view or if it violates state regulations.
  • Fines: Penalties for driving with a cracked windshield can range from warnings to fines. In some cases, drivers may be given a notice to fix the windshield within a certain timeframe.

Repair and Replacement

If a windshield is cracked or damaged, it’s not only a legal concern but also a safety issue. Many insurance policies cover windshield repair or replacement, often without a deductible, as part of comprehensive coverage.


It is not uniformly illegal to drive with a cracked windshield in the United States; the legality depends on the severity and location of the crack in relation to the driver’s field of vision and state-specific laws. Drivers are responsible for maintaining their vehicles to meet safety standards, including windshield integrity.

To ensure compliance with local laws, drivers should consult their state’s vehicle code or department of motor vehicles.


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