Cracked Windshield Laws In California: A Guide

The regulations regarding shattered windshields differ from one state to the next. The laws in California are severe; because driving with a damaged windshield can be deadly for the driver and other drivers on the road, cracked windshields are prohibited on the road. Continue reading to learn more about legal requirements.

Is Driving With A Cracked Windshield Legal In California?

“No.” The answer is no in a nutshell. California’s Vehicle Code, Section 26710 (On Defective Windshields and Rear Windows), includes the following wording:

  • “It is unlawful to operate any motor vehicle upon a highway when the windshield or rear window is in such a defective condition as to impair the driver’s vision either to the front or rear.”

What does this signify for you as a driver? It implies that if your vehicle’s windshield is damaged—whether by an object or a bird flying into it, or because of collision—you may not drive the car if it prevents you from clearly seeing the road or surroundings. Even if your windshield has only a little fracture, you should repair it right away to avoid legal trouble.

If you are caught driving with a cracked windshield in California, you may be fined. The amount of the fine will differ depending on the court, but it is typically between $25 and $100. In some cases, the judge may also order you to fix your windshield before your next court appearance.

If your windshield is cracked, you will almost certainly get a ticket. If your windshield isn’t in conformity during an inspection, you have 48 hours to repair it (if you are caught driving with a broken windscreen after that time, you may be charged and given a court date).

You might wonder why the laws are so strict! It turns out that impaired vision isn’t the only factor; cracked windshields are also not as strong, and may not protect you in the event of a collision or accident (which is more likely to occur if your vision is obstructed).  

If you are involved in an accident and your windshield is found to be at fault, you may be held financially responsible. In California, if it is determined that your windshield was the cause of an accident, you could be sued for up to $10,000 in damages!


Does This Apply To All Vehicles? 

The law is applicable to all types of public and private automobiles. This includes tractors, freight trucks, and fire engines. If it has a windshield, it’s almost certainly covered by this legislation. The only exemptions are those vehicles that were not required to have a windshield when they were sold or registered, although there aren’t many in existence.

How Much Does Insurance Pay?

The actual amount that an insurance company will pay out for a cracked windshield claim in California may vary depending on the insurer and the circumstances of the claim. In general, however, most insurance companies will cover at least some of the cost of repairs or replacement.

Some insurers will even waive the deductible for this type 


How Do I Know Whether To Get My Windshield Repaired Or Replaced? 

Some small cracks will allow for a windshield repair, but most will require a windshield replacement. The general guidelines are as follows: 

  • If the fracture is less than 3 inches long or has a chip smaller than a quarter, windshield repair technicians should be able to restore the glass. nHowever, depending on your insurance provider’s requirements, they may vary.
  • If there is a crack directly in front of the driver’s view or the crack is more than 3” in length, you will likely need to replace the windshield. This can cost up to a few hundred dollars, depending on the model/make of the car, but it may be covered by insurance. In California, it is against the law to drive with a cracked or damaged windshield. If you are caught driving with a cracked windshield, you may be subject to a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, your car may be impounded until the windshield is repaired or replaced.

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