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Auto Accidents

The Link Between Bad Weather & Motor Vehicle Accidents

Upcoming extreme weather conditions often make headline news because of their potential to inflict injury or cause death in communities across the nation. However, while floods, heat, hurricanes, and tornadoes wreak havoc and cost lives every year, the biggest threat to people concerning adverse weather conditions is automotive accidents.

Vehicular Accident Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are close to six million motor vehicle accidents in the United States annually. Statistics indicate that approximately 1,312,000 or 23% of these collisions are related to inclement weather. Weather conditions cause 480,338 or 20% of all vehicular accident related injuries. Every year, 6,253 people die in automotive collisions, which accounts for 17% of all accident related fatalities.

Weather and Driving

Singularly or combined, adverse weather factors may create roadway obstructions. Wet, slushy, or icy pavements reduce friction between the tires and the road. Fog, heavy rain, or snowfall interferes with visibility. Wet or frozen pavements combined with wind affect vehicle maneuverability and stability.

Driver behavior, knowledge, and experience during adverse weather also play a role in safety. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration conducted studies of driving behavior across the country during rain or snowfall events. Researchers found that drivers commonly do not sufficiently reduce vehicle speed when encountering wet, curved roads. A survey completed by 2,000 volunteers found that 62% of drivers claimed that they slowed down when driving on wet pavement. The remaining respondents admitted to driving at the same speed whether road conditions were wet or dry.

A study performed by Canadian researchers discovered that accident rates increased by 70% during a thunderstorm. Research in the state of California found that automotive collision rates doubled during days receiving precipitation. During wintry weather conditions, studies indicate that traffic is often reduced by as much as 30%. However, the states receiving the most snowfall during the year also recorded the greatest number of traffic related collisions.

Collision Prevention Strategies

Highway safety commissions implement advisory, control, and treatment methodologies in attempts at reducing the risk and number of weather related motor vehicle accidents.Advisories provided by state and local agencies include:

  • Up-to-date weather warnings via various local media outlets
  • 511 road condition alerts
  • Flashing lights on stationary signs
  • Digital textual displays on road signs

Control strategies include:

  • Speed reduction warning signs
  • Restricted access of roadways to local traffic
  • Stipulations for access that may include trucks with chains
  • Penalty enforcement
  • Road closures

Treatment methods include:

  • Roadway plowing during and after snowfall
  • Anti-icing and de-icing programs, which include chemical or sand application before, during, and after snowstorms or heavy frost.

According to a 2010 report, the estimated overall cost of weather related collisions was between $22 and $51 billion annually. A variety of FHWA Road Management programs continue research into finding ways of reducing the risk of vehicular accidents during adverse weather conditions. In ongoing studies, highway department officials recognize that safety applications must taking into consideration the aspect of human factor, driver education and training, weather variables, and intervention strategies.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been harmed from driving in bad weather, you need to contact a personal injury attorney. The Fernandez Firm is here to help you recover from your accident and receive compensation for any damages that you may have suffered. Contact us at (800) 222-8163 so we can begin helping you.