Warning: Scrape your icy windshield to avoid accidents like this one

SNOHOMISH — It was a cold morning in November.

Twenty-three degrees.

Clear skies.

Five minutes before sunrise.

A pickup truck had stopped at the intersection of Pine Avenue and Maple Avenue, a busy part of town. The driver turned and hit a Snohomish High School sophomore in the crosswalk.

Lora Burke, 15, was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for a fractured pelvis.

A Snohomish woman, 42, was driving her son to school when her pickup struck the girl. She told police she didn’t see the teen.

Police believe they know why.

The front windshield was “completely obscured by ice,” according to a police report.

The woman told an officer that she was surprised when a cellular telephone hit her windshield.

It belonged to the teen, who was not using it as she crossed the street.

Police have completed the accident investigation and are forwarding it to prosecutors for review.

The case is a reminder of the importance of taking the extra few minutes to clear car windows before driving, officials said.

“This lady made a conscious decision to drive with the windows essentially blocked,” Police Chief John Flood said. “Her vision was obstructed. She could not see out that window. You can’t drive down the road like that. It is not safe.”

The results could have been more dire had it been a smaller child or an elderly person crossing the street at that moment, he said.

Derrick Burke, Lora’s father, hopes what happened that morning can serve as a cautionary tale for others, that they will take the time to scrape their windows before driving.

The Snohomish City Councilman understands it’s human nature to think the car defrost will clear off the windshield quickly. He just wants people to consider the risks and do what’s right.

Lora missed more than a week of school. She needed crutches. She’s still in physical therapy. The cross country runner has had to put aside that passion while her body mends.

The morning of the crash was terrifying for her dad.

Less than five minutes after Lora left for school, he received a call. He could hear sirens in the background and his daughter screaming.

“It was a horrible moment,” he said.

Since then, he has worked to make sure his vehicles are well equipped with emergency supplies. He’s also refreshed his knowledge of first aid.

On the day of the crash, the woman was told she could be charged with vehicular assault, a felony, according to the police report. It’s also possible she could be cited for reckless or negligent driving.

Just how often frosty windshields are factors in traffic accidents is difficult to say.

The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission doesn’t keep those statistics.

“It’s not something we commonly see,” said Washington State Patrol trooper Travis Shearer. “When we do, it’s very obvious. We definitely pull them over and have a talk with them.”

Flood said others can learn from the November accident.

“It is an example of how busy we are in our day-to-day lives, that we push things to the last moment,” he said. “We just need spend the extra minute.”

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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