People might assume that when a traffic accident occurs during bad weather, fault is less of an issue. It’s typical to think, Hey, the weather was really bad—it was snowing, or raining, or sleeting. How could anyone have avoided that accident?
In fact, drivers almost always can take steps to avoid or minimize the risk of an accident, even in inclement weather.
In any weather, the vital issue in determining fault in a traffic accident is negligence. Did any driver display negligence and fail to act with appropriate standards of care? While those standards of care might change with the weather, the requirement to act according to those standards—what a reasonable person would do under those circumstances—does not.
Does Weather Make Traffic Accidents More Likely?
A study by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that 24 percent of all crashes are weather-related. Furthermore, almost 7,400 people die and more than 673,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes. Clearly, weather-related crashes form a significant hazard. Drivers need to remember the risks involved and take precautions.
What Behaviors Might Constitute Negligence in Bad Weather?
On a bright, sunny day, with no visibility issues, little traffic, and an open highway, traveling at the speed limit is likely to be considered reasonable. However, when weather conditions deteriorate and rain, fog, snow, sleet or ice are introduced into driving conditions, that sort of behavior might no longer be considered reasonable. Snow, ice, or rain can dramatically reduce a driver’s ability to slow a vehicle in an emergency. Snow, fog, rain, and other precipitation reduce visibility and can likewise dramatically affect a driver’s ability to react in time to a situation in front of the vehicle. Thus, weather can change what constitutes reasonable driving behavior under the circumstances.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that weather can affect traffic accidents in numerous ways. These include:
- Visibility distance
- Pavement friction
- Lane obstruction
These factors can change how to determine fault in weather-related traffic accidents. Factors that could affect a determination of negligence include:
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Following too closely
- Not using headlights
- Failing to use windshield wipers when conditions dictate
- Improper vehicle maintenance, such as tires
- Distracted driving
- Impaired driving
- Driving while fatigued
Obviously, all of these determinations will depend on many factors, including road conditions. All drivers must pay attention to driving conditions and adjust their driving to the road conditions.
Contact a Houston Car Accident Attorney Today
If you are involved in an accident where road conditions may have been a factor, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free case evaluation to see if you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries, contact Stewart J. Guss, attorney at law, at 800-898-4877, or send us an email through our online contact form.