There are approximately 6.3 million automobile crashes each year in the United States. According to the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, more than one million of those accidents are weather related. Unfortunately, weather related vehicle accidents are responsible for nearly 630,000 injuries and more than 7,000 traffic fatalities every year.
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While most drivers are aware that winter weather conditions can make driving risky, many do not realize the impact that adverse weather conditions that typically occur in the spring often have on the number of vehicle accidents. In fact, the driving conditions that are frequently experienced during the spring and early summer months are responsible for almost eight times as many injury accidents as those that are caused by snow or ice. Wet pavement alone contributes to an alarming 81 percent of weather related vehicle crashes, while rain is a contributing factor in a disturbing 52 percent.
As the weather begins to warm up, people tend to become more active, and the number of vehicles on America’s roadways tends to increase as well. A mixture of more congested roadways combined with spring showers and storms is an effective recipe for disaster.
How Do Spring Weather Events Impact Roadways, Traffic and Driving Decisions?
According to the FHWA, adverse weather conditions can have a significant impact on the number of vehicle crashes that occur.
- Windy conditions, which frequently occur during the spring and early summer months, can impair a driver’s visibility due to blowing dust. As a result, slower traffic speeds are common, resulting in extended travel times, frustrated or impatient drivers, and a higher accident risk. Additionally, strong winds can impact the stability of some vehicles, making driver control difficult.
- Rain, especially dense rain that is commonly experienced with spring and summer storms, is one of the most common causes of weather related car crashes. Precipitation of any amount, however, can result in visibility issues, wet pavement, poor traction, obstructed roadways due to flooding and, of course, driver distraction. Again, slower traffic often results in traffic delays and congested roadways, increasing the risk for accidents.
Wet pavement, like that which frequently results from torrential downpours, is the most hazardous of all when it comes to the impact weather events can have on the number of vehicle crashes. Wet roadways make it difficult for vehicles to stop suddenly or make quick maneuvers. Surprisingly, when the pavement first becomes wet, roads can be even more slippery. At the beginning of a rainstorm, oils in the pavement rise to the surface, causing a greasy surface resulting in a significant loss of traction. It is during this time that many vehicles become involved in rear end collisions.
- Fog is another adverse weather event that can increase the risk for vehicle accidents. When fog is extremely dense, which often occurs during the early morning hours when people are commuting to their jobs, vision can become so significantly impaired that drivers can experience difficulty seeing the roadway itself, let alone other vehicles, people or animals. High traffic speeds, congestion, and driver frustration all contribute to a greater risk for vehicle crashes in foggy conditions as well.
Prevention of Weather Related Accidents in Spring
Fortunately, there are a number of things drivers can do to help reduce their risk of becoming involved in accidents during inclement spring weather.
- Vehicle Tires: Tires play an important part in reducing the risk for an accident when the pavement is wet due to spring storms. Simply making sure that tires are properly inflated and that tread is in good condition can go a long way. Additionally, selecting tires that are designed to push water away from the vehicle can help improve traction.
- Windshield Wipers: Good quality windshield wipers that are in proper working order can make a significant impact on visibility when it is raining or pavement is wet.
- Speed: Wet pavement and poor visibility are common during spring rains. By slowing down to a safe speed, drivers will increase their ability to react effectively, which can help prevent crashes and reduce the severity of injuries sustained when an accident does occur.
- Avoid Submerged Areas: Most roads are designed with the center a bit higher than the sides to allow for the runoff of water. Drivers should avoid driving on the sides of roads whenever possible to help reduce the risk of losing control. Additionally, drivers should avoid completely submerged roadways at all costs. In addition to drivers being unable to see debris that might be floating in the roadway below, it can be nearly impossible to accurately judge the depth of water on roads ahead. Vehicles that enter water that is too deep or is affected by significant water current can be swept away in the blink of an eye.