Dangers of Driving with a Cracked Windshield

Closeup of a Broken glass

Many drivers are familiar with the frustration of a chipped or cracked windshield.  Although windshield damage can result from a variety of causes, by far the most common is flying rocks or other debris cast off from the loads of commercial trucks.  A 2001 law stipulates that new trucks be made with load covers, however this law does not cover older model trucks, many of which are still in active service.

Although driving with a damaged windshield is a ticketable offense in many states, most drivers regard a cracked windshield as a minor annoyance, and many feel a sense of ambivalence towards repair.

While a damaged windshield seems, at first glance, to be merely a cosmetic concern which does not warrant immediate attention, safety experts and police officers agree that there are larger, more severe implications of a faulty windshield than drivers typically realize.

Windshields play an integral role in a car’s support structure.  While during the course of normal driving an imbalance or imperfection in this structure might not be apparent, it can become deadly during a crash or collision.

In most cars, the windshield is designed to transfer the impact of a front-end collision down through the front of the car into the chassis, helping to minimize the impact’s effect within the interior, protecting passengers.  A cracked windshield can shatter under the pressure of a collision, allowing the impact of the collision to move horizontally through the car, significantly increasing the danger to passengers.

The windshield also provides vertical support, preventing the car’s roof from crushing.  During a rollover accident, a cracked or chipped windshield can allow the roof to cave in, causing potentially serious injury.  Statistics overwhelmingly indicate the danger and increased risk to passengers in a rollover accident during which the roof crushes.

While seatbelts are the primary means for protecting passengers from ejection during a collision, the windshield also plays an important role.  For unbelted passengers, or in situations where the seatbelt is faulty, broken, or severed in the course of the accident, the windshield can provide a final measure of protection ensuring that the passengers remain within the interior of the car.  Even a minor chip in the windshield can cause the window to shatter on impact, allowing passengers to be ejected from the vehicle.

In addition to distributing the impact of a crash, the windshield provides support to the airbags, particularly those on the passenger side.  When the airbag deploys during an accident, it expands outward and compresses against the windshield before pillowing out to support the passenger.

A faulty windshield cannot properly absorb the force of the inflating airbag, and can shatter, diminishing or negating the effectiveness of the airbag.

Given the dangers which can result from a damaged windshield, it is important that cracked or chipped windshields be repaired by a qualified technician as soon as possible.  Most insurance policies will cover the cost of windshield replacement, with an out-of-pocket cost that is typically quite affordable.  Windshield replacement or repair takes less than an hour, and can be completed on site, rather than in a repair shop.