Driver error may be the number one cause of car accidents, but in some cases, the driver is not to blame. Bad weather can make the roads too dangerous to drive on, leading to a loss of vehicle control and a harmful car accident. The Federal Highway Administration states that nearly 1,235,000 car accidents are weather-related each year, on average. These accidents account for approximately 21 percent of all motor vehicle crashes.
Precipitation is one of the most dangerous weather events for drivers. Statistics show that the vast majority of weather-related car accidents occur on wet roads (70 percent) and during rainfall (46 percent). Winter precipitation is the second-most dangerous for drivers, with snow accounting for 18 percent of weather-related car accidents, snowy or slushy pavement for 16 percent, and icy pavement for 13 percent.
Rain, snow, sleet, ice and hail can make the roads slippery and decrease tire traction. This can lead to a loss of vehicle control due to hydroplaning – when a vehicle slides uncontrollably across the wet surface of a road. Precipitation can also reduce the overall speed of traffic and cause obstructions, increasing the risk of rear-end collisions. Finally, active rain or snow can reduce a driver’s visibility and impede their view of the road.
The main issue with fog is interfering with a driver’s ability to see the road. Heavy fog can obstruct a driver’s view and visibility distance. The driver may be unable to see the road directly in front of the vehicle, which greatly increases the risk of colliding with other drivers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. A driver’s headlights can also refract and reflect off the water particles in the fog, making a wall of fog appear opaque and blocking vision entirely.
Dust Storms and High Winds
Periods of drought in Nebraska can lead to major dust storms, where dry soil blows in the wind and becomes a dust screen. Being caught in a dust storm in a motor vehicle can mean drastically reduced visibility and emergency conditions. Dust storms are often accompanied by high winds, which can also impact safe driving. While blowing dust or snow can reduce visibility distance, wind-blown debris can lead to lane obstructions and increase accident risks. A vehicle’s performance may also be impacted by less stability in high winds.
Temperature extremes in either direction – hot or cold – can impact driving safety. When the temperature of the pavement increases, this can temporarily increase a vehicle’s tire pressure. For every 10 degrees warmer, a tire will expand by approximately one to two pounds of pressure. Incorrect tire pressure combined with hot temperatures can lead to tire blowout accidents. Hot temperatures also increase the risk of a vehicle overheating.
On the opposite end, extreme cold temperatures can also impact a motor vehicle. Severe cold can contract a vehicle’s tires and lead to less pressure, causing underinflation and unsafe tread wear. A vehicle’s battery may also die in extreme cold, or there may be ice in the fuel line that causes engine problems. Cold weather also comes with a risk of winter storms, with snow and ice that increase the risk of a car accident.
Safety Tips for Driving in Bad Weather
Check the weather before you drive. If possible, stay home if the forecast looks bad. If you must drive in bad weather or get stuck in an unexpected storm, reduce your speed to allow yourself more time to react to changing roadway situations. Avoid any distractions and keep 100 percent of your attention on the road. If the roads get too dangerous, pull off and find somewhere safe to wait out the storm. Keep emergency supplies in your vehicle in case you get stranded in a winter storm. If you get into a car accident caused by bad weather, contact an Omaha car accident lawyer for advice.