Car Accidents Caused by Weather Conditions
One of the best aspects of living in Connecticut is the vibrant seasons that make up our year. However, with those changing seasons come shifts in weather that can take even longtime Connecticut residents by surprise. When this happens, the result can be an expensive car accident or worse, a life-threatening situation. Car accidents caused by weather conditions are a major factor for drivers to consider.
As experienced car accident attorneys, we have handled a great number of cases involving accidents in bad weather. We have put together the following article to help victims understand what their options are after a crash caused by severe weather. When an accident in bad weather occurs, many Connecticut drivers feel as if they are victims of circumstances beyond their control, and do not realize the full extent of their rights after an accident of this nature.
If you have been involved in an accident caused by bad weather and would like to discuss your situation, contact the attorney team at The Flood Law Firm.
“Car Accident Weather”
Connecticut weather conditions are known to have a significant impact on roadways and traveling conditions, causing bad weather accidents. But can weather affect your car accident claim? The answer is yes, though it depends on a few factors.
Of course, it is always important to be cautious and alert every time you get behind the wheel. This caution is especially important when severe weather conditions come into play.
There are more than 1,200,000 car accidents caused by weather conditions every year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Car Crashes Due to Bad Weather
It is easy to understand why bad weather is high on the top ten causes of car accidents in the United States. When you are unable to see beyond the hood of your car due to snow, rain or fog, you suffer from more than just a natural impaired ability to drive. Studies have shown that being alarmed for your safety can actually slow down your reaction time and your brain’s ability to think clearly when it counts the most (similar to instances of distracted driving).
Connecticut’s climate includes weather such as fog, snow, and rain, all of which are leading causes of bad weather accidents. And while many Connecticut residents are accustomed to taking necessary precautions during inclement times of year, it sometimes only takes a momentary lapse in attention or an unavoidable skid to cause a major accident on the road.
The fact is that bad weather significantly increases the chance of a car accident. Conditions such as fog, rain, sleet, snow, and ice not only hamper visibility, but can also affect the performance of your vehicle. Snow may cover lines on the road, while icy patches can catch you off guard and cause your vehicle to spin out of control. Drivers may be blown off course by a high wind or collide with debris tumbling across the road. Even the beautiful autumns for which Connecticut is famous can end up causing accidents, thanks to slippery piles of leaves strewn over the pavement.
Even when your driving is excellent, car accidents caused by weather conditions can still happen if another driver is less prepared or cautious than you are. This is why it is important to drive in a well-equipped vehicle (such as one with all-wheel drive) and moving at a slower speed during bad weather. The only thing worse than being caught in an accident in bad weather is being found at fault because you did not take the necessary precautions.
Obviously, the best option is to stay off the roads during periods of bad weather. But for many busy commuters in Connecticut, this is not always possible. If your lifestyle requires driving throughout the autumn and winter, you are well advised to begin practicing your bad weather driving skills once the weather begins turning cold.
Even drivers who have endured many years of unpredictable Connecticut weather can benefit from a few hours of practice behind the wheel under wet or icy conditions. These practice sessions can make all the difference if an unexpected situation arises during your daily commute. The instincts and habits you have developed may save not only your life, but the lives of others on the road.
Other important tips for bad weather driving include:
- Refraining from using cruise control (especially on slick or wet roads)
- Avoiding using the parking brake in cold or wintry weather
- Increasing your following distance to an 8- to 10-second distance behind the car in front of you
These simple precautions may be the key to preventing bad weather accidents and could not only save you a lot of money and frustration, but may even save your life.
Factors in Car Accidents Caused by Weather Conditions
Car accidents caused by weather conditions can be particularly complicated. After all, when Mother Nature is the primary culprit, how can any one driver be found at fault?
However, certain factors in bad weather accidents can go a long way toward proving your case.
The first thing to consider is the condition of the road on which the accident took place. Poor road maintenance causes more automobile accidents than bad weather, and when the two are combined, the results can be deadly. If your accident occurred on a Connecticut road that was particularly windy or steep, this may be an important factor in your bad weather car accident case. Even more important is if the road’s pavement quality was poor or the signage was not clear. Potholes, missing guardrails, or unmarked construction areas are significant hazards for Connecticut drivers, and are only intensified by bad weather. If your accident was the result of poor road maintenance, it is important for the court and your insurance company to be aware of the fact before deciding fault.
The bottom line is that fault in any car accident is determined by the standard of “reasonable action.” In other words, if you can prove that your driving in the moments before your car accident reflected the most reasonable care under the circumstances, you should not be found at fault.
Also, remember that other drivers can still be found negligent, no matter what the driving conditions are like (for instance, if they disregard road rules or were drunk driving).
Weather Related Accident Statistics
While accidents take place during all four seasons of the year, certain months often create more risks on roadways, usually leading to a higher rate of wrecks.
How Many Accidents are Caused by Bad Weather?
The following statistics from the Federal Highway Administration illustrate just how dangerous snowy and icy roads can be:
- Over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are in snowy regions, and receive more than five inches of snowfall annually on average.
- Almost 70 percent of the United States’ population lives in these snowy regions.
- More than 1,300 people die annually with another 116,800 injured in vehicle crashes due to snowy, slushy or icy roadways.
- Nearly 900 people are killed, with another 76,000 injured in automobile accidents each year in snow or sleet storms.
- Twenty-four percent of weather-related vehicle crashes take place on snowy, icy or slushy roadways, with another 15 percent occurring while it’s snowing or sleeting.
- Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snowfall, and by 5 to 40 percent in heavy snowfall.
- Average speeds on non-highway roads decline by 30 to 40 percent when pavements are sullied with snow, sleet or slush.
- Winter and spring road maintenance accounts for nearly 20 percent of state Department of Transportation maintenance budgets.
Bottom line: when “bad weather” months hit, be extra cautious on the road. When the weather is particularly dangerous, follow local news for weather and travel updates and be sure to observe all travel restrictions.
Types of Bad Weather
When most drivers think of weather, they imagine snow. But snows is not the only kind of hazardous weather. There are more categories of bad weather that occurs in Connecticut.
From drizzles, to light rain and violent downpours, rain can be dangerous in all its various forms. Freezing rain can make traveling treacherous, as roads are no longer just slippery, but coated with ice.
When rain or snow melt freezes on pavement, it forms an ice on the roads that is often referred to as “black ice.” Black ice is almost always hard to spot, and can also form if the road is not designed or maintained well enough to drain properly. It is particularly harmful near bridges and overpasses, as temperatures tend to drop more rapidly on elevated surfaces. Drivers should slow down and drive well under the speed limit, since this ice isn’t always visible. If you’re driving during a time when you might encounter black ice, make sure to check your tire tread for traction, drive slowly, and always use your headlights.
Strong winds alone are sometimes enough to blow debris into roadways and make vehicles — especially larger ones — harder to control and prone to rollovers. Couple this with rain, snow, or sleet, and the conditions could be disastrous.
Other types of weather you should be aware of include sleet, wind chill conditions, and below-freezing temperatures. These can be life-threatening if you experience a vehicle break down and are stranded outdoors.
What to Do During Extreme Weather Conditions
Most car accidents can be prevented. While there are circumstances that cannot always be avoided, it’s important to make sure you’re doing your part to help promote road safety.
When weather becomes particularly dangerous, consider these tips:
It’s easier said than done, but consider your destination and whether traveling is absolutely necessary. If you are heading to work, consider making other arrangements with your boss over the phone or via email. If you don’t have to be on the road, then stay off it. If you are already out when a storm begins, remember that pulling over to a safe area is also an option.
Upgrade Your Tires
Though this will take planning, be sure to upgrade your vehicle with appropriate tire chains or snow tires. Depending on your location, upgrading your tires should be a priority, especially if you travel often during the winter months or have a long commute.
To be safe on the road during bad weather, you will need to be as alert as possible. Therefore, increasing your visibility is imperative. Clear snow off all windows, as well as your windshield, and make sure your wipers are in good condition. Never leave home without an ice-scraper, and always check to see if you’re running low on windshield wiper fluid.
No matter the speed limit — if the weather is bad, slow down. If you start to slide, consider pulling over but avoid slamming on your breaks.
Driving in intense weather can be scary. You may feel panicked or aggravated, but staying calm will help ensure that you make smart, safe decisions.
Contact a Connecticut Attorney Today
If you or your loved ones have been involved in a car accident, The Flood Law Firm is ready to be your advocate. In cases of car accidents caused by weather conditions, every situation is different. For that reason, it is essential to have an experienced Connecticut car accident attorney on your side.
Our attorneys have the knowledge and skills to assess your case and can help you move on with your life. Whether you need assistance due to an uncooperative insurance provider or are having difficulty determining fault for the wreck, our firm can provide expert advice.