Chips, scratches and cracks in a windscreen are rarely the fault of the driver. All too often they are caused by falling objects like hail, debris or stones kicked up off the road by another car, or from a car accident. Cracks are unsightly, however, if the damage seems minor to you, the question is – is it still legal to drive your car with a damaged, chipped or cracked windscreen?
Is it Illegal to Drive with a Cracked Windscreen?
Yes, it is illegal to drive with a cracked, smashed or damaged windscreen for several reasons. It is illegal depending on where the crack is and how severe and/or deep the crack is. Victorian police can stop you for having a defective windscreen as it potentially obscures your vision. It is also an incredible safety issue.
Think of it this way. Driving a car means you are travelling in a couple tonnes of metal, hurtling at over 60km per hour, often over at 16 metres per second. As a result, if you can’t see clearly, you dramatically increase the risk of not seeing an obstacle, person or another vehicle. Further, refractions off the cracked edge of the glass can shine into your eyes, while distortions from the crack can hide small children, lower profile cars (or bikes, scooters, etc.), as well as other obstacles on the road.
Modern windscreens are also constructed to protect you, not only from the elements, but to also add structural integrity to the car. As a result, a crack in the glass can compromise the rigidity of the windscreen meaning it might not protect you in the case of a rollover.
It is important to have your windscreen checked by a professional, like Quality Fit Windscreens, if you are unsure about your damage. It is better than taking the risk of driving with a damaged windscreen. And while they might seem expensive, it is often easier and cheaper to repair a crack than to replace a windscreen if the crack becomes worse and causes more damage to the windscreen. Replacing a windscreen is, of course, far more expensive than repairing a crack!
How Dangerous Is It to Drive with a Cracked Windscreen?
Your windscreen plays an important role in the construction and structural integrity of your car. It is not only part of the support structure for the roof, it also shields you and your passengers from rain, dirt and debris from the road. Further, your windscreen is made from glass, which naturally makes it prone to cracking and breaking. While windscreen glass is constructed with using powerful urethane adhesives and is specifically made for cars, it is not indestructible.
As a result, all drivers have to deal with cracked windscreens. And cracks pose more dangers than we realise. Even small amounts of damage diminish a car’s structural integrity. This can lead to shattering and even severe injuries. It can also block vision and cause accidents. As such, it is important to know when your windscreen needs repairs or replacing.
How Long Can You Drive with a Cracked Windscreen?
Windscreen cracks are classified as a major safety hazard. While some people get them fixed as soon as possible, others try to drive as long as possible. But if you continue to drive with a cracked windscreen you may soon find yourself with a ticket. However, a ticket is not the worst result of a cracked windscreen. Some results of a cracked windscreen can be dangerous, if not life threatening. While in most circumstances a cracked windscreen won’t cave in, due to the urethane adhesive, it is still not safe. A crack is a safety hazard for you and your passengers.
Further, as a passenger, it is important to never ride in a car with a damaged windscreen. It is illegal to drive in a car with a crack that affects a driver’s ability to see. Further, excessive damage on either the driver or passenger side of the car is also illegal. And, of course, it is always illegal to drive with a smashed window. Other serious issues caused by cracked and damaged windscreens include:
Less visibility due to windscreen cracks means you are more likely to be involved in an accident. You can’t respond fast enough to a hazard due to decreased visibility. Further, reflected light can distract you as you drive or startle you if the lights hit you suddenly in the eyes.
Modern glass breaks more cleanly however shards are still sharp and poses risks. Smashed windscreen results in glass dropping into the cabin. As a result, this can injure or shock the passenger or driver. Cracked windscreen glass is weaker than non-cracked and more likely to smash.
Your windscreen is important as it keeps everything out of the car, from weather to rocks. As you can imagine, if a part is missing you are exposed to risks. Cracks can grow quickly and risk the overall integrity.
What Should I Do If My Windscreen is Cracked?
If you notice a bullseye or hairline crack it is still safe to drive your car. However it is important not to put off having a crack repaired. Contact a repair service, like Quality Fit Windscreens, for it to be fixed.
If small cracks occur while driving, it is important to pull over and inspect the crack. It should be okay to continue driving if the crack is small but explore repair options as soon as possible. Putting off repairs means the crack can continue to grow, making it expensive or require a full replacement.
However, if a major crack or smash occurs while driving, pull over as soon as it is possible and where it is safe. It is illegal to drive with a smashed windscreen or major crack. If you were involved in a car accident, get the details of those involved and seek emergency repairs immediately.
Why You Should Always Repair Windscreen Cracks
You may not notice a crack at first. A crack might not violate any laws, but it is still good to get it repaired sooner rather than later. Temperature and weather can cause a crack to grow quickly. Small chips and cracks can be repaired and cost less than being replaced. A repair can still restore the windscreen to full integrity. A crack that expands can lead to accidents, so it is important to have it assessed as soon as you notice a crack.
Repair or Replace?
The important thing to remember is that a chip or crack doesn’t always mean you need a windscreen replacement. There are several situations where a chip or crack can be repaired instead for less cheaper. These situations include:
Size of the Damage
Small chips or cracks may not need full replacement. They can be easily filled in with resin by a qualified windscreen repairer like Quality Fit Windscreens.
Position of the Chip or Crack
You can continue driving for a time if the chip or crack is only on the passenger side. Again, these can be filled with a resin and repaired to a nearly invisible state by a qualified repairer.
Small cracks can be repaired. However, temperature fluctuations can cause cracks to worsen quickly. The glass contracts and expands in result to the temperature, causing the crack to become worse and require a full windscreen replacement. A small crack can be repaired but a large crack requires replacement.
Cracked Windscreens in Victoria
In Victoria it is illegal to have a crack or cracks in the windscreen that impede a driver’s vision. Cracks that penetrate more than one layer of glass are also illegal. Further, discoloured glass, badly scratched, fractured or chipped glass is also illegal.
Drivers with windscreens with an area wiped by windscreen wipers to an extent that can’t be driven safely, or laminate with a crack that penetrate more than a single layer of glass can also be illegal.
Further, one or more bullseye cracks over 16mm in diameter in an area wiped by windscreen wipers and/or one or more hairline cracks over 150mm in an area wiped by windscreen wipers are also illegal.
Finally, bullseye cracks or hairline cracks under these sizes can also still be illegal if they are determined to make the car dangerous to drive. For further reading on windscreen safety in Victoria: VicRoads Roadworthiness Requirements