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Weather Conditions and Car Accidents


When the weather turns bad, the chances of an auto accident can increase substantially. This article discusses some of the more common ways in which weather affects driving safety.

Diminished Visibility

During rain storms and snowstorms, the failing rain or snow can make it difficult for drivers to see. When snow or rain is combined with dirty water or slush thrown up from the road by other drivers, windshields can quickly become dirty. Similarly, fog can significantly impair visibility and render headlights ineffective. During times of the year when the weather is likely to turn bad, drivers should ensure that they have sufficient windshield solvent to wash dirt and salt from their windshields. Should visibility become dangerously bad, drivers should try to find a safe way to get off of the roadway until visibility improves.

Diminished Traction

Bad weather conditions can make it more difficult to stay on a roadway, to stop, or to avoid colliding with other vehicles. Drivers must adjust their speed out of respect for water, snow or ice on the road surface. Sometimes even a light snowfall will obscure defects in the road, or cover up a patch of ice, necessitating driver vigilence

Strong Wind

Strong or sudden cross-winds can make it difficult for drivers to stay in their lane. Following a snowfall, sometimes snow will be blown across a roadway, obscuring the road surface including possible patches of ice.

Conduct of Other Drivers

In bad weather conditions, there are two types of driver who can significantly increase the risk to others. For lack of better terms, we'll refer to them as the excessively timid driver, and the reckless maniac.

The Excessively Timid Driver - An excessively timid driver will overestimate the danger of the weather conditions, and will drive at an unreasonably low speed. When the weather limits the number of available traffic lanes, such as can happen following a snowfall, this type of driver can cause traffic to back up. On a highway, this may inspire other drivers to try to pass by entering a traffic lane that is full of snow, slush, or ice, creating the risk of accident. On a regular roadway, their low speed may make it more difficult for other drivers to turn, or may cause cars to become stuck in accumulated snow or slush as they do not have sufficient momentum to pass through the obstruction.

The Reckless Maniac - This type of driver will completely ignore the consequences of weather, or may even think it is a good thing that the weather has forced a lot of other drivers off of the road. The reckless maniac may well drive at full highway speed or greater, even when visibility is low or the roads are covered with slush and ice. Often this driver will be in a four wheel drive vehicle, and will assume that 4WD somehow makes it impossible for a vehicle to skid. When a sudden emergency arises, or they lose control on a slippery road, their high speed makes it far less likely that they will be able to avoid a collision.

Changes of Season

On the whole you are most likely to encounter drivers who respond poorly to weather conditions as the seasons change, or when weather conditions are unusual for the location. What would be regarded as a light snowfall in a northern state may cause gridlock in the south. Following a heavy rain after a dry spell, or after the first snowfall of the year, it takes some drivers a while to adjust to the weather conditions.