Can I Drive With A Cracked Windscreen?

Can I Drive With A Cracked Windscreen?

If your vehicle’s windscreen is damaged in any way, the right course of action is to have it professionally assessed as soon as possible to avoid breaking the law and putting yourself or your passengers at risk.

A windscreen doesn’t only serve as a protective barrier for the vehicle’s occupants, it also plays a crucial role in maintaining the structural integrity of the vehicle.  Anything that compromises the windscreen’s ability to fulfil its many roles can be both dangerous and illegal.

Each state and territory in Australia is governed by specific road rules and regulations and these determine when it is OK to drive with a cracked windscreen.  For example, Western Australia abides by the National Road Transport Commission’s Roadworthiness Guidelines which state that it is illegal to drive when a windscreen crack impairs the driver’s vision.

Why is it illegal to drive with a damaged windscreen?

As mentioned above, any damage which obscures the driver’s line of vision and compromises their ability to see the road ahead will render the vehicle unroadworthy.  In other words, the vehicle cannot be driven until the problem has been rectified.

Police or a qualified vehicle inspector may also deem your vehicle to be defective or unroadworthy if your windscreen wipers are faulty or if your windscreen is damaged in such a way that it compromises its rigidity and structural integrity.

But before we go into what constitutes illegal windscreen damage, let’s first look at how a windscreen is constructed.  This will give you a better idea of why it’s important to get a professional opinion on any damage and to take appropriate steps to fix the problem if necessary.

Structure of a windscreen

Most modern windscreens are made from two layers of laminated safety glass with a layer of PVB (polyvinyl butyral) between them.  These layers are then fused together under very high temperatures to create an extremely strong glass that doesn’t shatter on impact.

Any damage that penetrates through both the layers means the vehicle would fail a roadworthy inspection.

What constitutes ‘illegal’ windscreen damage?

If you do have the unfortunate situation of a crack or chip in your windscreen, it’s always best to get the damage assessed by a professional windscreen repair company.  This will ensure clarity on the legalities of continuing to drive with the damage as well as give you peace-of-mind of any future risk.

It is illegal to drive when your windscreen has:

  • Cracked through more than one layer of glass
  • A crack over 75mm in length
  • A ‘bullseye’ chip or crack that is bigger than 16mm in diameter
  • Compound damage where a large area of the windscreen is smashed

Why you shouldn’t drive with a cracked windscreen

As mentioned, the number one reason you shouldn’t drive with a damaged windscreen is because you could be breaking the law if the driver’s vision is impaired.

You could also be putting yourself and your passengers in danger.  A windshield safeguards the vehicle’s occupants from the outside environment, including rain, hail, wind and flying debris.

A crack can also compromise the rigidity of the windscreen which could impact its ability to provide the required protection in the event of a collision or rollover.

Many people also don’t realise that a chip or crack can result in the sun’s rays refracting off the cracked edges, distracting the driver and posing a safety risk.

And another concern when driving with a damaged windscreen is that the damage can spread, and can even cause the windscreen to shatter unexpectedly.  If left unattended, a small chip or crack may worsen as a result of temperature fluctuations, driving over uneven surfaces, severe weather conditions etc, so it is always recommended to have the damage assessed by a professional to see if it should be repaired or replaced.

Many motor insurance policies offer full cover for windscreen repairs or replacements so the costs to you are minimal.  That said, even without insurance cover, it is absolutely not worth taking any risk when it comes to driving with damaged autoglass.

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