Q: Is it legal to drive a car without a windshield? A mechanic told me it was, but that the law requires you to have working windshield wipers nonetheless. – Don E., Graham
A: We have heard many incredible things from our mechanic, including stories about a mysterious device called a solenoid and how much it costs to replace one, but Don’s query left us flummoxed.
Is it even possible to drive without a windshield? Who would want to?
Visions of gravel, bees and smoldering cigarette butts smacking us in the face flashed before our eyes.
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Incredulous, we sought answers in the RCW.
Lo and behold, there they were. RCW 46.37.410 is titled, “Windshields required, exception — Must be unobstructed and equipped with wipers.”
In short, it requires all vehicles operated on public highways to have a windshield and that said windshield not be obstructed by “any sign, poster or other nontransparent material.”
There’s that exception, though, which reads:
“… on vehicles not so equipped or where windshields are not in use, the operators of such vehicles shall wear glasses, goggles or face shields pursuant to RCW 46.37.530.”
We suppose the law was written for vehicles such as Jeeps and some classic cars where windshields can be removed or folded down. But by our reading it also applies to the poor schmuck who’s front glass gets busted out by a flying rock or a jealous lover.
OK, but what about Don’s mechanic’s admonition about the wipers?
RCW 46.37.410 does require each vehicle equipped with a windshield to have wipers “maintained in good working order.”
Seems crazy, though, to be required to have wipers on a car without a windshield.
We sought guidance from Washington State Patrol trooper Todd Bartolac, who fell back on the old “common sense” argument.
“I don’t think that if you don’t have a windshield, you’re going to get pulled over for not having wipers,” Bartolac told us. “As long as they have eye protection, they don’t have anything to worry about.”
You can drive your car without a windshield if you’re wearing eye protection.
But if you’re driving a car with a windshield, it has to have working wipers.
Got it? Good.
A suggested shortcut
The state Department of Transportation, which has been working on Interstate 5 through Tacoma for what seems like forever, had a little friendly advice for motorists last week.
“Tired of backups on eastbound state Route 16 heading toward northbound I-5? Try this alternate route, which uses the state Route 7 U-turn at South 38th Street. We’ve clocked it, and when backups at the merge are heavy this will take you about half the time!”
In short, exit the northbound I-5 collector-distributor lanes from state Route 16 toward South Route 7/Pacific Avenue. Once on the turnoff, look for and take the exit for South 38th Street East.
That will take you the rest of the way up the hill and onto 38th Street.
Take the first exit, marked Route 7/Tacoma/I-5 and head back down the hill. Get over into the right lane and be ready to exit toward I-5 North/Seattle.
We drove it the other day and have a video of the route posted with this story at thenewstribune.com.