What Is Driveable After Hail Damage?

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- As we heat up, thousands of St. Louis area drivers are left waiting to drive their hail-damaged vehicles.

But even if the damage looks severe, they may not have to wait at all. Most fail to realize they do not need a rear window for a car to be street legal. People may even be able to drive their cars with cracked windshields.

Safelite Auto Glass in Maryland Heights is replacing so many hail-shattered car windshields, managers brought in two dozen workers from Minnesota to Colorado. They still haven`t been able to keep up with the rush entirely.

"They said I was lucky I called on Sunday and got it up here real quick, otherwise I`d be waiting," said Glenn Johnson of Maryland Heights, who had 3 vehicles needing windshield or window repair after Saturday`s hail storm.

Fox 2 Meteorologist Angela Hutti may have to wait a week or more for her car to be repaired.  Hail cracked her windshield in several places as she covered the storm from the Fox 2 weather center.

"My job is to be at the station on TV when the bad weather`s rolling through.  In this case the bad weather rolled right over us," she said.

Even if those icy baseball-sized chunks from the sky dimpled car hoods and cracked windows, waiting on repairs doesn`t necessarily mean you can no longer drive your car.

"So long as you can see out the back," said Maryland Heights Police Captain Scott Will. "Some people have tarps or carpet in the back to protect it from rain. If you have that, you must be able to see the rear through side mirrors or whatever, but so long as you can see the rear, it`s legal."

He said a car with cracked front windshield could still be drivable, as long as the cracks don`t impede the driver`s field of vision.

Angela`s car, with a spider-web crack right in front the steering wheel, is a 'no go'.
"This crack is right in my field of view. But if I kind of lean a little, this makes me feel like I can probably see through it," Angela said.

"If it obstructs your vision or impedes it in any way, then that`s a violation and a safety concern," Will said.  "There is a common sense factor here.  A lot of people experienced this kind of damage, so the officers take that into account.  However, we want the public to be safe."

"What if somebody kicks up a rock at me?  What if I hit a bad bump or a pothole?  What is this glass going to do?  I`m afraid it`s going to come in on me.  I`m not taking that risk," Angela said.

That`s pretty how you define that "common sense factor".  For instance, if you have to move around in your seat to see around the cracks in the windshield the car's not drivable;  if you there's a real fear wind or a small rock kicked up by another vehicle may shattered the windshield even further or knock it into your lap -- not drivable.

Also, remember, even if it's a crack that does not impeded your view, it'll have to be repaired before your car will pass inspection to renew your tags.

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email: andy.banker@tvstl.com

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