tn legal

 “Snow is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing – it is a tiger in lamb’s clothing.” — Matthias Zdarsky, early ski pioneer and founder of modern Alpine skiing technique (1856-1940)

Despite periods of non-wintry warmth, Tennessee winters still have elements of unpredictability.

Tennessee’s Legislature has passed several laws, published in the Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA), regarding how Tennesseans respond to snow and ice.

(1) “Clinging to vehicles” or having a vehicle pull a sled on a roadway.

It may seem like fun to have a vehicle pull a sled on the road, but it is also dangerous, and a misdemeanor crime in Tennessee, according to TCA section 55-8-174.

(2)  Operating a vehicle with insufficient windshield wipers.

TCA 55-9-203 makes it a misdemeanor to drive a vehicle without two functioning windshield wipers to remove rain or snow “unless one windshield wiper cleans to within one inch of each side of the windshield.”

(3) “Peephole driving.”

Sometimes we see impatient drivers heading down the road with a small area scraped clear on windshields and windows otherwise covered by ice, snow, or frost.

This practice can result in a misdemeanor reckless driving charge under TCA 55-10-205 if the driver is deemed to be “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

The misdemeanor charge of “failing to exercise due care” at TCA 55-8-136 also applies to peephole driving. 

(4)  Driving too fast on snowy or icy roads.

The same “due care” law as TCA 55-8-136 requires drivers to slow down, if necessary, and “devote full time and attention to operating the vehicle under the existing circumstances as necessary in order to be able to see and to avoid endangering life, limb, and property.”

(5)  Use of studded tires.


TCA section 55-9-106 outlaws use of tires with any “stud, flange, cleat, or spike.”  Exceptions are made for snow tires with wire material and tire chains “when required for safety” due to snow or ice.

“Y’all stay safe!”

Jim Hawkins is a Tennessee general practice and public interest law attorney. This column represents legal information, and is not intended to take the place of legal advice. All cases are different and need individual attention. Consult with a private attorney of your choice to review the facts and law specific to your case. You can call Jim Hawkins at (615) 452-9200 to suggest future column topics.

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