By: Pascal Moleus, Esquire
Driving in the rain is one of the most dangerous and scary experiences an automobile driver can have.
On average, there are over 5,748,000 vehicle crashes each year.
Approximately 22% of these crashes (nearly 1,259,000) are weather-related. Weather-related crashes are defined as those crashes that occur in adverse weather (i.e., rain, sleet, snow, fog, severe crosswinds, or blowing snow/sand/debris) or on slick pavement (i.e., wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement). On average, nearly 6,000 people are killed and over 445,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. (Source: Ten-year averages from 2005 to 2014 analyzed by Booz Allen Hamilton, based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data).
Additionally, the substantial majority of weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: 73% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall. A much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions: 17% during snow or sleet, 13% occur on icy pavement and 14% of weather-related crashes take place on snowy or slushy pavement. Only 3% happen in the presence of fog. (Source: Ten-year averages from 2005 to 2014 analyzed by Booz Allen Hamilton, based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data).
Many Drivers Don’t Know How to Drive in the Rain
Unfortunately, there are two types of drivers that significantly increase the risk of car accidents to others in bad weather conditions: overly timid drivers and reckless drivers.
Drivers that are too timid usually overestimate the dangers of rainy weather conditions and regularly drive at unreasonably low speeds. In instances where rainy weather limits the number of available traffic lanes, overly timid drivers can cause traffic to slow down and even back up. By driving at excessively low speeds, overly reckless drivers increase the risk of rear-end collisions.
Reckless drivers, on the other hand, outright ignore the consequences of bad weather and some even believe that bad weather is good since it supposedly forces other drivers off the road. This type of driver may drive at full highway speed (or greater) despite low visibility and drenched roads. When reckless drivers lose control on slippery roads, their high speeds increase the likelihood of car accidents occurring.
Car Accident Prevention Tips for Driving in the Rain
Even with the reduced visibility and traction that comes with wet-weather driving, most car accidents are preventable. Below are some tips on how to lessen some of the risks brought about by precipitation, whether it’s snow, ice, rain or fog:
1. Drive at a slower speed.
Although this tip is obvious, it’s an important tip because it allows for better reaction times. Rainwater causes grease and oil built up on the road to surface and, consequently, tires traction suffers as a result. Driving slower ensures that your tire traction will improve and that you will also have more time to brake.
2. Focus your eyes on the car ahead of you.
In the rain, it’s very difficult to see very far ahead of you. When driving in the rain, watch for the reaction of the driver in the vehicle directly ahead of you. When that driver brakes, you must brake. You should still keep a safe following distance from the car in front because you’ll need to brake more slowly on a slippery road to avoid skidding. Keep as much distance between you and the car in front of you but remain close enough so that car is in clear sight.
3. Do NOT brake suddenly.
Sudden braking can cause your vehicle to skid in the rain. Since the roads are slippery, stopping the wheels too quickly can cause them to lose all traction with the road, thereby increasing the possibility of an imminent car accident. However, if skidding occurs, stay calm and avoid making sudden turns because doing so may make the skidding even more dangerous. Just try to remain calm and steer straight until you feel the car regain traction.
4. Defog your windows correctly.
The windows on your car may fog, which results in even more limited visibility. Using the heater to defog your car windows actually makes them even foggier. To properly defog your car windows in rainy weather, keep your air conditioning blowing at both your windshield and your back window. If your car has a defog function, just press the button, and defogging should start automatically.
5. Avoid driving on standing or flood water.
Most roads are built with the middle of the road higher than the sides, so it behooves drivers in rainy weather to stay near the middle of the road where it would be less likely to have a buildup of rainwater. Cars cannot drive through the ocean floor and do not have firm tire grip in deep water, so stay away from pools of water. If you do expect to drive through standing water, lightly tap the brake pedal beforehand to dry the tire off a little.
In an ideal world, all rainy car accidents would be prevented by people refusing to drive when it rains; however, that is an unrealistic assumption. If you must drive in the rain, please keep these tips in mind. Nothing can make up for the loss of loved one in a fatal car accident, so always yield to safety.
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