Bad Weather: Bad Drivers

Researchers and statisticians found that 24% of all crashes occur during adverse weather conditions, including ice, snow, and rain. The research showed that most drivers do not account for adverse conditions created by rainy weather. They suggest slowing down and increasing the distance between traveling cars as a way to decrease the number of accidents in bad weather (June 1, 2008).

Each year, nearly 7,400 people are killed and over 670,000 are injured in crashes. But not all wrecks are because of driver error.i Rainy weather can wreak havoc on highways. When a big storm rolls in, drivers tend to either slow down too much or not enough. Drivers need to be wary of driving in any change in the weather.

A new study by transportation engineers reveals that nearly one-quarter of all crashes occur in bad weather conditions. Most happen on wet roads. Unlike snow and ice covered roads that scare drivers into staying home or driving more carefully. Many drivers don’t consider rain as ‘bad’ weather, so more cars end up on wet roads, and drivers don’t slow down enough to avoid serious accidents.

“Weather can impact visibility, distance, pavement friction, vehicle performance and travel speeds,” Goodwin explains. “We need to have a better understanding of how weather impacts our roads and then we can make better travel decisions.” More wet weather accidents can be avoided if drivers slow down and increase their distance from the car ahead. “I’m very cautious when I know that there’s going to be inclement weather so I try and get ahead of the weather and drive either earlier on or much later,” one driver says.

Keeping a step ahead may help you get to where you’re going … alive! Researchers also found an increase in crash risk at the start of the winter season. Throughout the winter season, drivers seem to adjust and relearn how to drive in snow.

SLOW DOWN FOR WET WEATHER: About 25% of all car crashes occur in bad weather, and most of those occur when the road is wet. Many drivers recognize that snow and ice can cause them to lose control of their cars, but most underestimate the dangers that rain can pose. For this reason, more people travel in wet weather, and do not realize the need to adjust to lower speeds when traveling on wet roads. Following cars less closely is also a strategy that provides drivers with more time to react if something dangerous occurs in their path.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A CRASH? The laws of physics say that an object in motion will stay in motion, with the same speed and direction, unless it is acted upon by an outside force. So if you are traveling at 60 MPH and your car hits a solid wall and comes to an immediate stop, your body will continue going at 60 MPH until it is stopped by, say, a seatbelt, airbag, or, at worst, a windshield. If the car has a rigid body, the rapid deceleration caused by the impact will produce injuries and fatalities. Because the stopping time is only a split second, the force on the passengers is very high.