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Study Finds Light Rain Increases the Risk of Fatal Car Accidents

A car under a light rain

Wet conditions are associated with an increase in car wrecks. However, a new study reveals even light rain significantly increases the chances of drivers getting into serious and fatal wrecks.

Research from the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies found the risk of a fatal crash rises by 34 percent in wet conditions.

The research uses radar analysis rather than traditional information derived from police reports. The research team states the methodology allowed them to make more accurate findings.

The report uses combined wreck data for 2006–2011 from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and combined it with high-resolution radar data to find accidents that took place in wet conditions. More than 125,000 crashes were studied.

The findings shed light on the difference between light rain and heavy rain. Although many drivers in Hampton Roads believe light rain is not as hazardous as torrential downpours, the study reveals both conditions are hazardous for drivers.

Fatal accidents are 27 percent more likely even in light rain, the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies concluded. Study author Scott Stevens told the Associated Press:

“We’re talking a drizzle, just at the point where you might consider taking an umbrella out. People slow down when it starts to rain heavily, but I think they under-appreciate the risk of light rain.”

The study found that the chances of being involved in an accident are highest during the morning rush hour and in the winter.

We often see a spike in accidents during dark, wet mornings in Hampton Roads when thousands of cars are traveling to Norfolk, Virginia Beach or elsewhere.

Sadly, many drivers fail to change their driving behavior when light rain falls. They often fail to put on their headlights even though this is required by Virginia law.

The research team found rain was a factor in 7.7 percent of the crashes studied. The report notes heavy rain decreases visibility and increases the pooling of water on the road surface. This can heighten the danger of hydroplaning when a driver loses control of a vehicle on a surface of the water.

Fatal crashes caused by snow and rain are more likely in the Northern Rockies and Upper Midwest areas, the researchers found. However, light rain increases the risk of fatal car accidents across the country.

Tips to Stay Safe in Wet Weather in Virginia Beach

When rain starts falling, you should moderate your driving to cope with conditions. Make sure to:

  1. Be visible: Ensure your headlights and taillights are on and your brake lights and turn signals work correctly.
  2. Keep your distance: Tailgating is dangerous in all weather conditions. It’s a particular hazard when it’s raining. Keep your distance behind the vehicle in front of you.
  3. Check Your Tires: Ensure sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure. Poorly maintained and badly deflated tires provide less grip on the road. Check your tire pressures at least twice a month, ideally every week.
  4. Don’t Use Cruise Control: Don’t use cruise control in rainy conditions. You have less control. If you hydroplane when you are on cruise control, your vehicle may suddenly accelerate to a high rate of speed.
  5. Don’t Speed: You are more likely to lose control of your car in wet weather at a high speed. Cut your speed by about a third in wet weather. When traveling at 70 mph, expect an average overall stopping distance between 315 – 320 feet. That’s more than the length of two football fields. You should base your speed on safe conditions rather than posted speed limits.
  6. Avoid Sudden Turns and Lane Changes: Sudden turns and lane changes can cause skids and lead other cars to take hazardous evasive action. Slow down and give plenty of notice before making a turn.

Call a Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyer After a Wreck in Wet Weather

Many Virginia drivers fail to adapt to wet conditions, particularly in light rain. This is a mistake. If you have been hurt in a car wreck caused by a careless or a reckless driver in wet weather, please contact our experienced Virginia car accident injury team.

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