Is it legal to drive with a cracked windshield?

Answer: Depends on the crack and on where you live

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

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Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

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Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Why it matters

Driving with a cracked windshield is not only a safety risk but also a legal concern in many places. A crack in your windshield can obscure your view, compromise the structural integrity of your vehicle and result in fines or failed vehicle inspections.

Here's a closer look at the legality, dangers, repair options and insurance concerns related to driving with a cracked windshield.

Cracked windshield laws in the United States

The legality of driving with a cracked windshield varies by location. Drivers are subject to both federal and state laws. 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, your vehicle must have a windshield.[1] The following conditions for that windshield must be met. 

  • Free of discoloration or damage in the area extending upward from the height of the steering wheel, excluding a 2-inch border at the top of the windshield and 1-inch border on each side. 
  • Exceptions are made for cracks that are less than ¾ inch in diameter, if not intersecting or closer than 3 inches to another crack or damaged area.
  • Coloring or tinting the windshield to the right or left of the driver is allowed provided the luminous transmittance is not less than 70% of the light.
  • The driver’s field of view cannot be obstructed by devices, decals or stickers.

Cracked windshield laws by state

The above regulations apply when you are driving anywhere in the United States; however, specific states have added additional criteria to their windshield laws and regulations.[2]

It’s important to know that these laws apply if you are driving through the state, regardless of where your car is registered. Thus if you have a damaged windshield and you’re planning a cross-state road trip,  it’s a good idea to look up the local laws before you leave — or just get your windshield fixed.

State cracked windshield laws
State Cracked windshield law
Alabama Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Alaska Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Arizona Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Arkansas Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
California It's unlawful to operate a motor vehicle on a highway when the windshield or rear window is in defective condition
Colorado The crack must not extend more than six inches, intersect with another crack or be more than 1.5 inches from the edge of the windshield.
Connecticut Cracks cannot be more than 20% of the width of the windshield or more than 3" from the edge of the windshield.
Delaware Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road. Any cracks over 5 inches on any window are mandatory failure items.
Florida Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Georgia Cracks on a windshield or rear window cannot have a starburst or spider webbing effect greater than three inches by three inches.
Hawaii Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Idaho Idaho has strict laws on cracks in windshields with any crack considered unsafe.
Illinois Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Indiana Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Iowa Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Kansas Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Kentucky Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Louisiana Cracks (including nicks, chips, bullseyes or half-moons) cannot be larger than 1/2 inch in the area directly in the driver's line of vision. They cannot be larger than 2 inches in the area swept by the windshield wipers.
Maine Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Maryland Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Massachusetts No cracks or chips are allowed within area cleared by windshield wipers or larger than the size of a quarter.
Michigan Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Minnesota Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Mississippi Cracks outside the area cleared by windshield wipers on driver’s side are permitted, but only if no other areas of damage or discoloration impact view of the road
Missouri No cracks within windshield wiper area or any longer than 3 inches.
Montana Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Nebraska Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Nevada Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
New Hampshire All windshield cracks or distortions are illegal.
New Jersey Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
New Mexico Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
New York Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
North Carolina Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
North Dakota Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Ohio Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Oklahoma Cracks larger than 3 inches, hairline cracks longer than 12 inches in the windshield wiper area and cracks which allow air to pass through are illegal.
Oregon Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
Pennsylvania Glass with exposed edges, cracks that obstruct the drivers' vision and areas of etching are illegal.
Rhode Island Cracks cannot damage the safety seal inside the glass layers. Minor cracks and discoloration are only permitted at edges of windshields.
South Carolina Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
South Dakota No cracks, chips or other damage on the windshield or any other window.
Tennessee Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Texas Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Utah Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road. Cracks, chips or other damage larger than one inch is permitted only if within six inches from any edge.
Vermont Star cracks cannot be larger than 2 inches. Star or bullseye cracks, or chips and discoloration larger than half an inch in diameter are not permitted in front of the driver. All damage cannot obstruct view of the road.
Virginia Scratches greater than 6 inches by ¼ are not permitted in area cleared by windshield wipers. Any cracks larger than 1 inch may not be above the bottom 3 inches of the windshield.
Washington Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.
Washington, DC Cracks or chips are illegal if they obstruct the view of the road.
West Virginia Cracks are not permitted in 8-1/2 by 11 inch area directly in front of the driver, and not larger than 1.5 inches in the windshield wiper area.
Wisconsin Cracks cannot be directly in driver’s line of sight, unless less than half an inch in diameter. Cracks can't extend more than 8 inches from top of windshield. Cracks cannot obstruct view of the road.
Wyoming Cracks must meet the standards of federal law.

Dangers of a cracked windshield

Now let’s look at why these laws exist. A cracked windshield poses several risks:

  • Reduced visibility: Cracks can significantly impair a driver’s ability to see clearly, which is essential for safe driving.
  • Structural weakness: The windshield contributes to the structural strength of the vehicle. In a collision or rollover, a compromised windshield may not perform effectively, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Potential for worsening: Small cracks can quickly become bigger problems if not addressed. Changes in temperature, humidity and physical stress can all cause a small crack to spread across the windshield.

Process for repairing a cracked windshield

Cracks, knicks and other windshield damage are common hazards of the road. Repairing a windshield crack as soon as possible is crucial to maintaining safety and compliance.

For small chips and cracks, a professional repair involving a special resin injected into the crack can often restore integrity and clarity. This process is generally quick and cost-effective.

If the crack is too large or in the driver's direct line of vision, windshield replacement might be necessary. Modern adhesives allow this process to be completed quickly, often within a few hours, and the vehicle can be safe to drive shortly after the installation is complete.

Will insurance cover windshield repair?

Many auto insurance policies cover windshield repair and replacement as part of comprehensive coverage. Some states, including Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina, offer zero-deductible windshield replacement. This means there's no out-of-pocket cost to the vehicle owner for repairing a windshield. 

Some insurers may prefer repair over replacement as it is less expensive. If the damage is extensive, though, replacement will be necessary, and it's crucial to use an insurer-approved service to ensure compliance with your policy terms. Insurance policies vary widely, so it's important to check the specifics of your policy.

Wrapping up

Driving with a cracked windshield is a safety hazard and can be illegal depending on where you live. Always consult with a professional for windshield repair or replacement, and check your insurance policy to understand what coverage you have for such repairs. 

Ensuring your windshield is in good condition is an essential part of safe driving and helps protect both you and your passengers.

Sources
  1. U.S. laws around windshields. [Department of Transportation]

  2. Cracked windshield laws in the United States. [CrackedWindshieldLaws.com]