How does Weather Impact Car Accidents

Weather is a major cause of car accidents. Weather acts through visibility impairments, precipitation, high winds, and temperature extremes to affect driver capabilities, vehicle performance (i.e., traction, stability and maneuverability), pavement friction, roadway infrastructure, crash risk, traffic flow, and agency productivity.

On average, there are over 5,891,000 vehicle crashes each year. Approximately 21% of these crashes – nearly 1,235,000 – 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 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year.

The vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: 70% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall. A much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions: 18% during snow or sleet, 13% occur on icy pavement and 16% of weather-related crashes take place on snowy or slushy pavement. Only 3% happen in the presence of fog.

Weather-related Car Accident Settlements

weather related car accidentWeather events can reduce arterial mobility and reduce the effectiveness of traffic signal timing plans. On signalized arterial routes, speed reductions can range from 10 to 25 percent on wet pavement and from 30 to 40 percent with snowy or slushy pavement. Average arterial traffic volumes can decrease by 15 to 30 percent depending on road weather conditions and time of day. Saturation flow rate reductions can range from 2 to 21 percent. Travel time delay on arterials can increase by 11 to 50 percent and start-up delay can increase by 5 to 50 percent depending on severity of the weather event.

On freeways, light rain or snow can reduce average speed by 3 to 13 percent. Heavy rain can decrease average speed by 3 to 16 percent. In heavy snow, average freeway speeds can decline by 5 to 40 percent. Low visibility can cause speed reductions of 10 to 12 percent. Free-flow speed can be reduced by 2 to 13 percent in light rain and by 6 to 17 percent in heavy rain. Snow can cause free-flow speed to decrease by 5 to 64 percent. Speed variance can fall by 25 percent during rain. Light rain can decrease freeway capacity by 4 to 11 and heavy rain can cause capacity reductions of 10 to 30 percent. Capacity can be reduced by 12 to 27 percent in heavy snow and by 12 percent in low visibility. Light snow can decrease flow rates by 5 to 10 percent. Maximum flow rates can decline by 14 percent in heavy rain and by 30 to 44 percent in heavy snow.

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