Weather plays a role in many vehicle crashes. The cause and nature of the crash would be easier to understand if we knew what the weather conditions were at a particular time in a particular place. Proving the role of weather in crashes (auto, truck, motorcycle, bicycle) may offer some explanation of the cause of the event.
Proving the presence of weather phenomena is far from simple. Most of us have seen incidences when rain was falling on one side of the street, but not the other. We have also seen brief pop-up storms that are over in moments and all traces have disappeared in moments, as well.
Let’s imagine the case of a specific crash caused by a sudden downpour. The driver knows about the downpour and the blinding effect of the rain on the windshield. The police report, however, does not mention rain at all. How will you convince an insurance adjuster or a jury that there was indeed a sudden blinding event?
A number of previous studies have tried to calculate the impact of certain weather events when crashes occur. They have been limited to data from police reports and, perhaps, field observations. Police reports that are available may not be as specific as we might wish. A crash in the middle of a block may be reported in terms of the cross street, for example. These sources have not accurately demonstrated the weather conditions in a precise location at a precise moment.
A paper to be published soon in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society concludes that the risk of a fatal vehicle accident increases by 34 percent during a precipitation event. This is far more specific than citing an increased risk from 10 percent to 76 percent. This study also extends into new detail: radar data shows that driving in heavy rain or snow increases the chance of dying in a crash by 246 percent. This should be compared to 127 percent for driving in light precipitation. The study also found that the greatest risk of precipitation causing a fatal crash occurs during the morning rush hour (but this is not paralleled in the afternoon rush hour).
Using GPS and high-resolution radar, scientists are able to show density and location of precipitation more accurately. With this detailed information these scientists learned that rural locations are more dangerous for drivers during bad weather.
Scientists are telling us that climate change will bring more storms and more intense storms. We should expect, then, that more crashes will be caused by weather phenomena. A growing presence of self-driving cars will make it more important to know the impact of weather on highway safety.
According to these scientists, the top killer in weather-related fatalities is traffic accidents, not hurricanes and tornadoes. The key weather hazards in these weather-related accidents are rain, snow, ice, blowing sand, and fog.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes occur every year. About 21 percent of those accidents – just over 1.2 million, involved hazardous weather. These crashes cause 5,376 fatalities and 418,000 injuries each year.
We can reasonably expect that the Insurance Industry will maximize all information of this kind that becomes available in trials and mediations related to injuries and property damage caused by vehicle accidents. We should also expect that plaintiff’s attorneys will be equally eager to use this data to the greatest possible advantage for their clients.
It may be too soon to draw too many conclusions about the uses of this data. We know that drivers are expected to modify their driving behavior in the presence of bad weather or other potential risks. And, it is always far better to adjust our driving to prevent weather-related vehicle crashes than to wrangle about the role of the weather in the individual crash.
If you or a loved one is injured in a weather-related crash, or any vehicle accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your hurts and harms. Call Altizer Law P.C., with your questions. We will help you investigate and analyze a crash, determine all relevant factors in the crash, and, if you wish, represent you in seeking fair compensation. Bettina Altizer and her team examine all of the relevant details and information to build the strongest case, and then fight for you aggressively and tenaciously. We know that it’s about the money.