As the recent death of a Middletown teen going to his prom demonstrates, driving in the rain can indeed be hazardous. News reports in the Times Herald-Record state that the teen was traveling a bit too fast as he merged onto I-84 West while heading to the dance at approximately 5:30 p.m. His car slid and then struck the rear wheels of a tractor trailer on the interstate, at which point the car went off the road. Although he was wearing his seat belt, he died from his injuries later at the hospital. A front-seat passenger, who was also wearing his seat belt, sustained minor injuries, while the two back-seat passengers were not injured.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, about 1.5 million crashes per year, which are almost a quarter of all motor vehicle accidents in the United States, are weather-related. Of those, nearly 75 percent happen on wet roads and 47 percent occur while it is raining. Based on records compiled by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2011, there were 24,995 traffic accidents in the state on roads with slippery pavement, 53 of which were fatal and 9,177 of which resulted in some type of injury.
Driving in adverse conditions
There are several reasons why rain creates adverse driving conditions. When rain first begins to fall, it mixes with oil and rubber-dust deposits on the pavement, creating a slippery driving surface, according to smartmotorist.com. The combination of oil and rubber-dust accumulates at intersections and can cause drivers who are coming to a stop or starting to drive after a stop to skid or slide.
Wet road conditions negatively affect vehicle traction as well. As a car travels over the water on a wet road, the water on the road needs to be displaced; this is not as much of a problem for a car with good tires as the water can be displaced into the treads, but if the tires are bald, hydroplaning can occur. When a vehicle hydroplanes, the tires lose contact with the road surface which can cause the vehicle to slide. Another effect of driving during rain is, of course, the decrease in visibility.
Some important tips to remember when driving in the rain are:
- Drive slower
- Turn on your headlights
- Slow down by removing your foot from the accelerator
- Don’t follow other vehicles too closely
- Pull over if visibility is an issue, turn on your emergency flashers, and wait for the rain to stop
Also, be sure that your tires are not bald and that your windshield wipers are in good condition. Accidents can be avoided by careful driving. Drivers who fail to adjust their driving because of weather conditions and are involved in an accident may be held liable for injury and property damage.
If an accident occurs
If you have been involved in a car accident in which rain, or any inclement weather, played a role, you may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights and your options. If another driver was at fault, you may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other costs.