You’re driving on the highway behind a dump truck filled to the top with stones or maybe you’re cruising on the open road when you suddenly pass a sign that reads, “LOOSE GRAVEL,” and you hear an awful thwack!
Then you see it: a chip in the glass, and your heart sinks. How many of you have experienced this scenario before?
If you’ve been driving long enough, then you’ve almost certainly been the not-so-proud owner of a damaged windshield. While it’s rarely pleasant to have to deal with car repairs of any kind, fortunately, it’s both simple and relatively inexpensive to repair a damaged windshield.
In fact, if you live in Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York or South Carolina, then under most circumstances these states’ insurance laws dictate that your windshield replacement or repair will be free.
Most of the time windshield damage starts out as a small chip caused by flying debris such as a rock or a chunk of asphalt from the road impacting your windshield while you’re driving. Chips are easy to ignore, but they can eventually increase in size and severity, forming long cracks. When that occurs, it can become distracting and even illegal.
In California, for example, the police can issue you a ticket compelling you to repair a damaged windshield within 48 hours and to provide proof of doing so in court. Failure to comply can lead to your arrest. And if being in violation of the law isn’t bad enough, windshield cracks can be extremely dangerous.
Here are three of the real dangers a cracked windshield presents:
1- Front-End Collision Risk
The windshield is an essential component to a vehicle’s structural integrity. During a front-end collision, the windshield is designed to transfer the force of the impact to the chassis and away from the cabin, thereby protecting you and your passengers. A compromised windshield has a much greater chance of shattering during a front-end collision which will increase the force incurred by those inside the vehicle.
2- Roll-Over Risk
Not only does the windshield deflect forces away from the cabin during impacts to the front of the car, but it also helps protect the cabin from forces to the top of the vehicle. During a roll-over crash, for example, the windshield provides up to 70% of the roof’s strength and stability, according to Ford Motor Company. If a compromised windshield breaks under these circumstances, the chance of the roof collapsing beyond five inches—the legal allowable amount of crush in the U.S.—increases greatly and so do the dangers to you and your passengers.
3- Ineffective Airbag Deployment
One of the least intuitive ways in which windshields help protect the occupants of a vehicle is the vital role they play in the deployment of the passenger-side airbag. When a collision triggers the deployment of the passenger-side airbag, the windshield provides the backstop that forces the airbag to deploy into the cabin and protect your passengers. A cracked windshield may break on impact, and of it does manage to stay intact, it may not be strong enough to force the airbag to deploy in the right direction. This would render it totally ineffective.
We can all agree that a cracked windshield is a nuisance. It’s annoying. It’s obnoxious. It’s even against the law. But the real negatives that a damaged windshield present are potentially life threatening, if not as obvious as their ugly cosmetic flaws. As such, your windshield should receive the same attention you’d give a leaking tire or bad brakes. Don’t wait. Get it fixed. Addressing the problem is simple and doing so may end up saving your life.