Police checkpoints for snow tires?


As previously highlighted in The Maine Wire, there are a number of strange, ridiculous and funny-sounding bills being proposed in the Maine Legislature this session.

Forgive us, dear reader, for in our initial examination we overlooked the most egregious one.

If you read the first take, you won’t be surprised to hear that Rep. David McCrea is sponsoring legislation this session that would prohibit Maine drivers from operating a motor vehicle without snow tires or all-weather tires from October through the month of April.

The legislative request – LR 370 – has now become a bill – LD 213 – and the language of the measure reads:

“Beginning December 1, 2019, automobiles registered in this State may not be operated from the 2nd day of October to the last day of April without appropriate snow tires or all-weather tires…”.

The bill gives authority to the Chief of the State Police to create rules that define “snow tires” and “all-weather tires,” and design a system for “identifying that a tire meets the requirements of the rules.”

Despite the fact that some Maine families simply cannot afford this mandate, the premise of imposing the requirement begs the question of how such a law would be enforced in Maine.

Will there be police checkpoints on Route 1 in the middle of January to ensure every last car is equipped with snow tires?

I’m mostly joking, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Now granted, Rep. McCrea represents a northern Maine district where it’s colder and the snow likely sticks around longer. But quite often there isn’t even snow on the ground in October or April in southern and central Maine. Why exactly should Maine drivers be required to use snow or all-weather tires when weather conditions do not require they be equipped?

If passed, there is no doubt that Rep. McCrea’s bill would hurt those who already struggle securing reliable transportation and affording the high costs of owning and maintaining an automobile in Maine.

Prohibiting these individuals from operating a motor vehicle on our roads for nearly six months without snow tires will quite literally upend their lives. How could they be expected to go to work, attend class or do anything to improve their socioeconomic status?

In 2015, researchers at Harvard University issued a report that found commuting time is the largest factor that influences whether an individual or family is able to escape poverty.

Lack of reliable and affordable transportation is a significant barrier to economic success and upward mobility. It limits access to employment and educational opportunities, promoting social isolation. A 2014 report by the Urban Institute found that “automobile access importantly influences employment outcomes and earnings for low-income households.”

While it’s recommended that drivers equip their vehicles with snow tires or all-weather tires for the winter months in Maine, policymakers should know better than to impose a mandate that will only hurt those who already struggle to make ends meet.

LD 213 is incredibly regressive legislation and should be soundly defeated this session.