Is It Dangerous to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?
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How Dangerous Is It to Drive With a Cracked Windshield?

Your vehicle’s windshield serves the important function of shielding you and your passengers from rain, snow, ice, dirt, and debris from the road while driving. However, windshields are made of glass which makes them inherently prone to cracking and breaking. Even-tempered safety glass is not indestructible, and many drivers will eventually have to deal with a cracked windshield.

A cracked windshield may pose more danger than you realize. Even a small chip or crack can diminish the structural integrity of the windshield, and small amounts of damage can lead to shattering and severe injuries. It can also block your vision, which could cause an accident. It is important to know when a cracked windshield requires attention, and the difference between a repairable crack and one that demands a full replacement.

Repair or Replace?

Some windshield cracks may not warrant immediate replacement, and others may only require a small patch to keep you and your vehicle safe for many more miles on the road. You should consider a few factors for any windshield damage to determine whether to repair or replace your windshield.

  • Size of the damage. If something chips or cracks your windshield you may not need a full replacement. However, some states have laws that make it illegal to drive with a cracked windshield. For example, a state may hold that any crack longer than six inches requires replacement. Check your state’s laws concerning cracked windshields and always err on the side of caution.
  • Position of the crack or chip. If your windshield only suffers a small chip or crack on the passenger side, you may be able to continue driving for quite some time before you will need to replace it. However, if your windshield sustains a larger crack, or the impact site is directly in front of the driver’s seat, then state law may demand that you replace it immediately since it impedes the driver’s ability to drive safely.
  • Growing cracks. Temperature fluctuations can cause some small cracks to worsen very quickly. As the temperature changes, the glass contracts and expands and will eventually cause a small crack to grow much worse.

If your windshield only sustains a minor crack that is one or two inches long, you can probably have it repaired instead of replacing the whole windshield. The same applies for chips less than an inch in diameter. However, remember that small cracks will grow with time, and you will eventually need to replace the windshield.

Risks of Driving With a Damaged Windshield

After your windshield sustains damage its ability to protect you while driving decreases significantly. A damaged windshield can leak, potentially causing water damage to the interior of your car. If your windshield is already cracked, then another vehicle could kick a pebble or other bit of road debris into your damaged windshield and cause it to shatter completely.

Colorado Windshield Laws

Colorado upholds specific laws in regard to windshields to protect drivers. Primarily, the state requires all motor vehicles to have windshields. The only exception would be antique or classic cars that did not include windshields in their original design. Windshields must be comprised of safety glazing material that reduces the chance of shattering upon impact, and all vehicles must have functional windshield wipers that remove snow, ice, rain, and other moisture from the windshield.

The penalty for failing to meet these requirements or for driving with a severely damaged windshield may include a fine of $15 to $100 and qualifies as a Class B traffic infraction. Ultimately, if your windshield sustains any damage in Colorado, the best thing you can do is visit an auto glass shop or mechanic to determine the scope of the damage and whether it requires repair or replacement.