Jason Leigh

Jason puts the finishing touches on a new piece of glass at Cobblestone Auto Spa at Alma School and Germann in Chandler. Bad practices by opportunists sometimes hurt the auto glass trade. 

When police stop a driver with a cracked windshield, their primary concern is to eliminate a safety hazard if the crack blocks the field of vision.

Arizona law allows an officer to use his or her own discretion to evaluate whether a crack poses a safety risk. For the most part, a crack in the middle of the windshield would be likely to draw a warning or a ticket that gets quashed when the repair is completed.

But police also say a cracked windshield can serve as grounds to make a stop where an officer determines a much more serious violation has occurred, such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“In the majority of cases, if a citation is issued, it's a ‘fix-it’ ticket. It's only if the crack obscures your field of vision,'' said Sgt. Jesse Sanger, a Gilbert police spokesman. “If the crack runs through your field of vision, it needs to be fixed.''

He said that many times a “fix-it ticket'' is dismissed when the driver brings a receipt to a court verifying a windshield has been replaced or repaired.

Nicole Farr, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Insurance Institute, said it's better to a get a small star-shaped crack fixed rather than risk a ticket or an unstable windshield.

“If it's on the driver's side, that's when it is suggested to repair the windshield. You don't want the star to expand and affect visibility,'' she said. “If the star is starting to expand, it's affecting the integrity of the windshield.''

Windshields are actually two pieces of glass fused together with vinyl in the middle, said Justin Cardwell, manager of an East Mesa Safelite repair facility. He said most cracks are to the outer shell of the windshield.

Safelite attempts to save the windshield when possible by repairing rock chips and other small cracks before they spread, he said.

Cardwell and others have a few additional suggestions for drivers when they inevitably catch a rock on their windshield:

  1. Notify your insurance company. If you have comprehensive, most repairs will be covered, but some people opt not to buy comprehensive in hopes of lowering their premium, or because they can only afford minimal insurance. Insurance companies often have a recommended provider but they also give customers the option of picking a qualified repair shop of their choice.

  2. Deal with a reputable glass vendor with a repair facility, although many companies have mobile services where the repairman will come to your home or office. Avoid fly-by-night operators who might approach you in a parking lot. Give your insurance information only to someone trustworthy.

  3. If you think you are a victim of fraud, notify the Arizona Department of Insurance, which investigates complaints. Go to the insurance fraud link at insurance.az.gov for more information or call 602-364-2140 to reach the Investigations Division.

  4. A reputable glass company can generally fix most rock chips and cracks that are less than the size of a dollar bill as a rule of thumb.

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