Weather conditions can have a huge impact on driver safety. It can affect driver visibility and control as well the vehicle’s maneuverability, stability, and traction. Rain, high winds and extreme temperatures affect roadway conditions, pavement friction and the flow of traffic, all of which can increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. Weather conditions affect roadways, the flow of traffic and the operational decisions that follow.

In an average year there are more than 5,748,000 car crashes occurring on U.S. roadways. Statistics show that in approximately 1,259.000 (22%) of these accidents, weather played a role. Weather-related traffic collisions are defined as car crashes that happen in bad weather. It could be fog, rain, snow, sleet, heavy crosswinds, the wind blowing sand, debris or snow across the road, and/or slick/slushy pavement caused by rain, snow, or ice. As a result of these weather-related collisions, nearly 6,000 people lose their lives and more than 445,000 are injured every year.   

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The overwhelming majority of these accidents occur when it’s raining and on wet pavement: 46% occur when it’s raining and 73% occur on wet pavement. Other weather-related collisions happen during typical winter weather conditions: 3% happen in the fog, 13% happen on icy roadways, 14% happen on snowy/slushy roads and 17% happen during sleet or snow storms.

What Drivers Should Do to Stay Safe

Everyone’s driving is affected by extreme weather. Heavy fog, rain, snow, sleet, ice and dust will all diminish your visibility.

Of all the various weather conditions that driver’s face, fog is considered the most treacherous. If you find yourself driving in heavy fog, slow down and turn on your car’s low-beam lights. If the fog is so thick that you barely have any visibility, pull off the road to safety and wait until the fog lifts to resume driving.

When it first starts drizzling, raining or snowing, slow down because this is exactly when roads are the most slippery. When moisture in the air mixes with dust and oil on the road, it can get very slippery, causing reduced traction. Under these conditions you are at risk of losing control of your car.

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It’s not just cold winter weather, rain, sleet, ice and snow that can affect your driving, but high temperatures, heavy winds and glare from the sun can cause problems as well.

Bright sunlight and/or how light reflects on a streaked or dirty windshield will diminish visibility and this puts you at risk. Before starting your car you should remove dew, frost, or ice from not just your windshield, but all the windows as well. 

It’s up to you to ensure that you are able to see clearly and be seen by other drivers. If you’re driving in rain or snow, stop regularly to wipe any mud or snow off all the windows, as well as the side mirrors, headlights and even the taillights. In an abundance of caution, even in daylight during perfectly clear weather, keep your headlights on so that other drivers can see you.

When it’s windy outside it can affect how well you can control the steering. Head winds can slow you down, whereas tail winds will push the car forward, increasing your speed.

Crosswinds can push the car sideways, causing it to swerve. This affects larger vehicles like vans, SUVs and trucks more. If you find yourself driving in a crosswind, slow down and steer very carefully. If heavy winds persist, pull over to safety until the winds die down.

The automobile accident attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Contra Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.

(Source: Federal Highway Administration )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

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