It can happen in a moment: you are driving down the highway and something hits your windshield unexpectedly. You might see a crack spread immediately, or sometimes a small chip can lead to a crack that runs over time. Not only is a crack inconvenient, but drivers also need to know about the California windshield replacement law.

Are you driving around illegally with a cracked windshield? This law is complex, which is why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for every vehicle owner. The best thing you can do is talk to a windshield specialist to see if it’s necessary to replace your windshield. Our professional team at Auto Glass Specialists is here to help.

Is It Illegal to Drive with a Cracked Windshield in California?

In the state of California, Vehicle Code Section 26710 addresses cracked windshields, as well as possible exemptions that might be applicable. If you read the fine print in this law code, you’ll see that driving with a cracked windshield is illegal based on traffic laws in the state.

This California windshield replacement law applies to all types of motor vehicles, including:

  • Cars
  • Trucks
  • Buses

If the driver’s vision is impaired, then it is illegal to operate the vehicle. Drivers must have an unobstructed view, so if there is anything blocking the driver’s visibility then it could result in penalties.

In most cases, it’s best to replace damaged windshields within a few days. Not only is it legally required that the windshield needs to be replaced, but the cracked glass could be causing a safety concern as well.

Exemptions to the California Windshield Replacement Law

It is illegal to drive a vehicle with a cracked windshield, and these windshield obstruction laws in California can also apply to rear windows – depending on the situation. But there are a few exemptions to this law, including:

  • Rear Windows in Private Vehicles: While these windshield laws apply to all commercial vehicles and most private vehicles, there is an exception for the rear window on private vehicles. However, if the rear window is the primary means of visibility when the vehicle is in reverse, then the law applies.
  • Agricultural Vehicles: Depending on the usage and circumstances, certain agricultural vehicles might be exempt from these laws.
  • Motorcycles: Since motorcycles don’t have windshields, the windshield obstruction laws in California do not apply.
  • Cars Without a Windshield: It’s rare, but some cars are sold or registered without a windshield. These cars are not common, but they may be exempt from the state windshield replacement laws.

Cracked Windshield California Law: When to Replace the Windshield?

How do you know if the cracks in your windshield are severe enough to require replacement? The majority of cracks are big enough to fall under the guidelines of the cracked windshield law. These are the general rules that are considered when determining whether the cracked windshield is breaking the law:

  • Size of the Crack: If the crack is longer than 3 inches in length, then the windshield must be replaced.
  • Location of the Crack: When the crack is located in a place that is blocking the driver’s immediate view, then the windshield needs to be replaced.
  • Type of Damage: While small cracks and chips can often be repaired, larger, more extensive damage (such as a spiderweb crack) usually requires full windshield replacement.

If you have questions about whether the windshield needs to be replaced, then the simplest solution is to visit a glass and windshield specialist for personalized recommendations.

Windshield Repair vs. Windshield Replacement

Keep in mind that if the crack is less than 3 inches or if it is a chip smaller than a quarter, then it might be possible to repair the windshield instead of replacing it. A glass specialist will be able to tell you whether the windshield can be repaired or if replacement is necessary.

Windshield repair can be quite a bit cheaper compared to full windshield replacement. So, if you are tight on cash and the damage is small, then consider paying for repair instead of replacement.

Timing matters, especially when the weather conditions are changing. If a windshield crack or chip is left untreated, then it will likely spread. So, as soon as you see a crack or any type of damage on your windshield, the best thing you can do is bring your car to our expert team.

Possible Penalties for Driving a Vehicle with a Cracked Windshield

Not only is the California windshield replacement law designed to protect you, but these laws are also in place to protect other people on the road.

There are specific penalties that can be given if you are caught driving a vehicle with a cracked windshield. You can be pulled over for this offense. Or, if you are pulled over for another reason (such as speeding), a cracked windshield can be added to the ticket.

Operating a vehicle with a damaged windshield could result in:

  • Citation
  • Fines
  • Points on your driving record

If you’re caught out of compliance with cracked windshield obstruction laws in California, then you have 48 hours to complete the repairs. If you continue driving the vehicle after this time and you are caught, then it’s possible that you could be arrested and need to go to court for the offense.

How Much Does a Cracked Windshield Citation Cost?

When you receive a ticket for a cracked windshield, the fine can range between $25 and $197. Additionally, you might have more legal costs if you need to pay court fees. The fines and out-of-pocket expenses increase for repeat offenses.

Safety Concerns: Can I Drive with a Cracked Windshield?

Not only do you need to consider the legal ramifications of driving with a cracked windshield, but it’s also important to consider your safety. There are several reasons why a cracked windshield is a possible safety threat:

  • Limited Visibility: You need to see clearly while driving, and a cracked windshield can block that visibility. If you can’t see your surroundings or things on the road, then there is a higher risk of an accident.
  • Unnecessary Glare and Distortion: Another reason why a windshield crack can interfere with visibility is because it can increase the amount of glare you see from oncoming headlights or the sunlight. Additionally, cracks can result in image distortion, which can increase the risk of accidents.
  • Reduced Accident Protection: If you are in an accident with a cracked windshield, then built-in safety features might not be available. For example, the structural integrity of the vehicle is supported by the windshield, so if a rollover accident occurs, there is a higher risk of the roof caving in. Also, damaged safety glass increases the possibility of vehicle passengers going through the window during a collision.

Why Timely Windshield Repair Matters

Not only do you need to replace the windshield quickly to comply with the California windshield replacement law, but there are other reasons why it makes sense to replace a damaged windshield right away:

  • Save Money: A fast windshield repair can actually save you money on more expensive costs. For example, repairing a small crack or chip might reduce the likelihood that you need to replace the entire windshield. This proactive approach prevents the crack from spreading further across your windshield.
  • Avoid Additional Citations: If you are ticketed for driving with a cracked windshield, then the consequences are severe if you receive a 2nd citation for the same issue. Not only will these citations impact your driving record, but the fines can also add up.
  • Reliable Car: Having a durable and clear windshield is important so that your vehicle is fully functional, allowing you to travel to all of your normal daily destinations, such as work, school, etc.

Tips for Maximizing Insurance Coverage to Pay for Windshield Replacement

The good news is that many insurance policies will pay for windshield replacement. Depending on your policy, you might be reimbursed for a full or partial payment based on the total expense of the repair or replacement.

For best results, you should always reach out to your insurance provider right away. Review your policy details so that you know the type of coverage available for your vehicle. Ask about whether the claim will affect your deductible or monthly payments. Often, if you have comprehensive coverage, then you can be reimbursed for windshield repair or replacement.

So, if you are worried about the out-of-pocket expenses for repairing or replacing the windshield, then ask questions to find out about your insurance coverage. You can contact your provider directly, and also talk to our office staff. We are happy to provide the necessary documentation to assist your insurance claim.

Call the Windshield Replacement Specialists in California

It’s not worth the risk to keep driving with a cracked windshield. Stay compliant with the California windshield replacement law by reaching out to our team for assistance.

Our professional team at Auto Glass Specialists is here to help. We offer personalized recommendations to ensure your vehicle is compliant with California windshield replacement law, and provide a range of products and services based on your unique needs. Whether you need windshield or replacement, we are just a phone call away!