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Home  »  Car Accidents   »   Effects of Inclement Weather Conditions on California Car Accidents

Effects of Inclement Weather Conditions on California Car Accidents

Effects of Inclement Weather Conditions on California Car Accidents

May 11, 2021

California’s roads and highways can be dangerous in the best of weather conditions. But when snowstorms, mudslides, torrential rain, and high winds occur, drivers can be much more prone to committing roadway errors that lead to car accidents. You may be wondering whether or not weather conditions have a significant impact on the chances of being in a car accident. Below we’ll review how weather conditions impact roads and to what degree they increase the risk of car accidents in California.

How Do Weather Events Impact Roads?

The U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration issued a report outlining how specific weather variables impact roads, traffic, and driver operational decisions. Their findings offer some important information that can help California drivers avoid car accidents. Let’s take a look in more detail:

High Winds:

In terms of roadway impacts, wind speed can alter visibility distance (due to blowing snow, dust) and lead to lane obstruction (due to wind-blown snow, debris). High winds can impact traffic speed, travel time, and increase accident risk. Additionally, high winds can have driver operational impacts, such as vehicle performance (stability), access control, and evacuation decision support.

Precipitation:

Precipitation can impact roadways through reduced visibility distance, pavement friction, and lane obstruction. In terms of traffic, precipitation can affect roadway capacity, traffic speed, travel time delay, and (again) increase accident risk. Operational impacts of precipitation can include vehicle performance (specifically traction), driver capabilities or behavior, road treatment strategy, traffic signal timing, speed limit control, evacuation decision support, and institutional coordination.

Fog:

For can impact roadways by reducing visibility distance. For traffic, fog can impact speed, speed variance, travel time delay, and increase accident risk just like high winds or precipitation. The driver operational impacts of fog can include one’s capabilities or behavior, road treatment strategy, access control, and speed limit control.

Pavement Temperature:

Pavement temperature can affect roadways by causing infrastructure damage. For drivers, operational impacts can include road treatment strategy.

Pavement Condition:
Many California streets, roads, and highways are – just like many other parts of the country – in desperate need of repair. Pavement conditions can impact roadways in terms of friction, and can also lead to the infrastructure damage we see every day. Pavement conditions can also impact traffic through changes in roadway capacity, traffic speed, travel time delay, and increased car accident risk. Additionally, driver operational control can be impacted in various ways by pavement conditions. Vehicle performance, driver capabilities or behavior (specifically route choice), road treatment strategy, traffic signal timing, and speed limit control can all be affected by pavement conditions.

Water Level:

Standing water on roadways can be very dangerous for drivers. Water level can cause lane submersion, a common roadway impact. In terms of traffic, water level can impact speed, travel time delay, and increase car accident risk. Driver operational control can be impacted, as well as evacuation decision support and institutional coordination.

How Does Weather Impact Traffic Safety?

The U.S. Department of Transportation confirms that, on average, there are over 5,891,000 motor vehicle crashes every year. Approximately 21% of those crashes are weather-related. That equates to roughly 1,235,000 weather-related car accidents in the U.S. each year.

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).”

In terms of fatalities, nearly 5,000 people are killed (with over 418,000 people injured) in weather-related crashes each year. That figure comes as a ten-year average (from 2007 to 2016) and is based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data.

What Weather Conditions Cause the Most Car Accidents?

What Weather Conditions Cause the Most Car Accidents?

The vast majority of weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement (70%) and during rainfall (46%). Winter conditions – snow, sleet, ice – are known to cause a smaller percentage of weather-related car crashes, with 18% during snow or sleet, 13% on icy pavement, and 16% taking place on snowy or slushy pavement. Only 3% of weather-related motor vehicle crashes happen in the presence of fog.

The U.S. Department of Transportation offers the following table summarizing weather-related motor vehicle accident statistics.

Weather-Related Car Accident Statistics (Annual Averages)

“Weather-Related” crashes are those that occur in the presence of adverse weather and/or slick pavement conditions.
Road Weather Conditions
Weather-Related
Crash Statistics
10 Year Average (2007 – 2016)
10-year Percentages
Wet Pavement860,286 crashes15% of vehicle crashes70% of weather-related crashes
324,394 persons injured15% of crash injuries78% of weather-related injuries
4,050 persons killed12% of crash fatalities76% of weather-related fatalities
Rain556,151 crashes10% of vehicle crashes46% of weather-related crashes
212,647 persons injured10% of crash injuries51% of weather-related injuries
2,473 persons killed8% of crash fatalities46% of weather-related fatalities
Snow/Sleet219,942 crashes4% of vehicle crashes18% of weather-related crashes
54,839 persons injured3% of crash injuries14% of weather-related injuries
688 persons killed2% of crash fatalities13% of weather-related fatalities
Icy Pavement156,164 crashes3% of vehicle crashes13% of weather-related crashes
41,860 persons injured2% of crash injuries11% of weather-related injuries
521 persons killed2% of crash fatalities10% of weather-related fatalities
Snow/Slushy Pavement186,076 crashes4% of vehicle crashes16% of weather-related crashes
42,036 persons injured2% of crash injuries11% of weather-related injuries
496 persons killed2% of crash fatalities10% of weather-related fatalities
Fog25,451 crashes1% of vehicle crashes3% of weather-related crashes
8,902 persons injured1% of crash injuries3% of weather-related injuries
464 persons killed2% of crash fatalities9% of weather-related fatalities

How Many Car Accidents are Caused by Weather?

For crash type, the following statistics have been confirmed:

Roughly 15% of fatal car crashes, 19% of injury crashes, and 22% of property-damage-only (PDO) crashes occur in the presence of adverse weather and/or slick pavement every year. On an annual basis, adverse weather conditions lead to:

  • Nearly 4,900 fatal car accidents
  • Over 301,100 injury car accidents
  • Nearly 919,700 PDO car accidents

Again, out of the nearly 6 million vehicular accidents – car, truck, motorcycle, moped, scooter, etc. – that occur each year, approximately 21% are weather-related. That’s over 1.2 million annual car accidents in the U.S. that are caused by inclement weather conditions.

Tips for Avoiding Weather-Related Car Accidents

Below we’ve outlined 10 safety tips for reducing car accidents in bad weather conditions.

Top 10 Safety Tips for Reducing Car Accidents in Bad Weather

1. Reduce Your Speed: Perhaps the most important step any driver can take to reduce the risk of a car accident in adverse weather is to slow down. By simply reducing your speed, you can have a substantial impact on reaction time and stopping ability. For example, reducing one’s speed from 60 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour actually lowers a driver’s required stopping distance on wet surfaces from 459 feet to 204 feet. That equates to a 55% reduction in the distance a driver requires in order to stop safely in the rain.

2. Increase Caution at Dangerous Locations: While we’ve identified California’s most dangerous roads and highways in a separate blog, it’s important for drivers to also remember that certain locations are more prone to motor vehicle collisions. Car accidents typically occur at intersections, along bridges, and while making lane changes/merging. By making a conscious effort to pay attention and increase caution in these locations/scenarios, you can reduce the risk of car accidents in all weather conditions.

3. Be Seen by Others: Drivers are always encouraged to increase their car’s visibility. But that is especially true when driving during poor weather conditions. Be sure your vehicle’s lights are functioning, and turn on your low beam headlights in inclement weather conditions. Studies have shown that headlights can significantly reduce potential automobile accidents – up to 38% – in all weather conditions.

4. Increase Following Distance: Increasing the distance between your car and the car ahead of you is particularly important during bad weather conditions. It is recommended that drivers maintain a minimum of two to three seconds between vehicles under normal driving conditions. In any of the above referenced weather conditions – fog, high winds, snow, etc. – drivers are encouraged to increase following distance to four seconds. In extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain, dense fog, ice, or persistent snow, drivers should increase their following distance to at least six seconds. Increasing a driver’s following distance can significantly reduce the chances of being involved in a rear-end collision.

5. Reduce Sudden Actions: Whether it’s quick lane changes, hard “panic” braking, or high-speed merging, sudden actions during poor weather conditions can increase the chance that you will not only be in an accident, but lose control of your vehicle entirely. Driving in a smooth, controlled manner is the best way to maintain control while under inclement weather conditions.

6. Don’t Panic if Your Car Begins to Hydroplane/Skid: As we mentioned above, standing water in roadways can cause a serious threat to drivers. With mudslides being a common occurrence in California, many drivers are at risk of hydroplaning or skidding off the road entirely under such conditions. If your car does begin to hydroplane, ease your foot off the gas while carefully steering in the direction you wish the front of your vehicle to travel. This specific maneuver may require additional counter-steering before you are able to regain full control of your vehicle. Keep off both pedals – gas and brake – until full control of the vehicle has been achieved. Hydroplaning can occur more frequently when using the cruise control function. Hence, do not use cruise control during bad weather, as this could actually cause the vehicle to accelerate uncontrollably.

7. Understand and Utilize Your Vehicle’s Safety Functions: Technology has allowed car manufacturers to provide new functionality that increases safety while driving in poor weather conditions. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, accident avoidance, four-wheel drive, active body control, and telematics are just a few examples of the safety technology available in today’s cars. Some of these features may activate automatically, but others may need to be manually administered. It’s important that drivers read the operating manual provided by your car manufacturer to ensure you understand how to turn on any available stability control/traction control features that can be useful in bad weather.
Vehicles equipped with a telematics system (like GM’s OnStar or Tesla’s telematics service) can provide emergency aid at the touch of a button. If a vehicle’s airbags deploy, the telematics system automatically notifies a dispatch center, locates the vehicle, and requests emergency services (if the driver is unresponsive to the automatic phone-based inquiry).

8. Understand Driving Abilities: Whether you’re a teenager with a learner’s permit or a master driver with decades of experience and a spotless driving record, knowing one’s own abilities (and applying them accordingly when driving in bad weather conditions) can help reduce car accidents and improve safety overall. Moreover, for drivers who may be getting older and wondering whether or not it might be time to hang up the keys for good, taking a standard driver’s test to confirm your abilities (reaction time, vision, etc.) is never a bad idea.

9. Maintain Your Vehicle: Driver’s often neglect to check tire pressure, fluids, wipers, etc. Maintaining a properly-functioning vehicle is one of the best ways to reduce car accidents, particularly during inclement weather. Always remember to check the vehicle on a regular basis, and keep an emergency first-aid kit handy.

10. Stay Informed of Weather Patterns: Using technology to stay informed of problem areas and changing weather conditions can be especially helpful in reducing car accidents. For drivers who do not have the latest navigation systems, there are a number of simple and easy to access options available.

To check a specific road or highway’s condition throughout California, visit the Caltrans website. To check current highway conditions by phone, simply dial 800-427-7623. To check road closures around Los Angeles and the Southern California region, visit the County’s website. For live updates on local conditions, visit the following website.

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

Who is At Fault for a Car Accident Caused by Weather Conditions?

If you’re involved in a car accident where weather is a factor, you may be wondering whether or not filing a personal injury civil lawsuit to pursue financial damages is an option. Under California law, in most cases the driver who caused the accident is not able to use weather as an excuse. Drivers who cause accidents under various weather conditions – rain, sleet, snow, ice, high winds, etc. – will almost always be considered at-fault.

That said, California is a comparative fault state. This means that when a personal injury claim is filed after a car accident, a percentage of fault will be assigned to all involved parties. Therefore, while it’s most likely that using weather as an excuse will not absolve a driver of liability, it may be determined that a specific percentage of the fault is attributed to the other driver. Drivers in California have a duty of care to maintain safe driving habits at all time. That means regardless of the weather conditions, you, as a driver, are responsible for avoiding car accidents. Moreover, drivers are expected to stay off the roads during extreme weather conditions, making such an excuse in a civil claim almost always ineligible.

What to Do After a Car Accident

After a car accident, certain steps should be taken to ensure all involved parties are safe and passersby are not injured. We’ve outlined the 10 steps you should take after a California car accident in a recent blog. Take a look to find out what questions you should ask immediately following a car crash, and what steps are most important to help you stay safe and achieve a full recover after an injury.

Get the DLG Advantage for Your Car Accident Claim

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) has established the premier Car Accident Division in California by offering unique advantages to clients that are unavailable at other firms.

At DLG, every case we accept is prepared for trial. Our founder and president, Sam Dordulian, has successfully handled over 100 jury trials as a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. This unique experience – rare among personal injury lawyers – allows our clients to be confident that their car accident claim will never result in a lowball settlement offer. When insurance companies or at-fault drivers refuse to settle for a maximum financial damages award, we take the case to trial.

And with our investigative team being led by a former LAPD Central Traffic Division detective – Moses Castillo – we uncover every piece of evidence to ensure your case is prepared properly and has the best chance of success. Evidence in car accident cases can be the difference between a $5,000 settlement and a multi-million dollar settlement. With DLG, you can be confident that we will recover every piece of evidence available to help strengthen and ultimately prove your case.

And while you may be wondering whether hiring a car accident lawyer is necessary, keep in mind that a study by the Insurance Research Council found that settlements were 40% higher for injured victims who had private legal representation. IRC research also confirmed that the average insurance payout is 3.5 times higher for clients with personal injury attorneys like Sam Dordulian than for those representing themselves. And 85% of all money paid by insurance companies for bodily injuries goes to victims who have secured representation from a private car accident attorney.

At DLG, two of our Car Accident Division attorneys previously worked as defense counsel for major auto insurance corporations. So when companies like Geico, Progressive, or Allstate try to lowball our clients with paltry settlement offers, we counter those tactics with insider knowledge and experience. When an injured car accident victim brings a case to DLG, he or she can have peace of mind knowing that every trick, method, and tactic used by major auto insurance companies will not be used against them to minimize their claim.

At DLG, we’ve maintained a 98% success rate and recovered over $100,000,000 for our clients in just over a decade. To learn more about why DLG is the best choice for a car accident lawyer in California, contact us today or call 818-322-4056 for a free consultation.

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