Major storms get the most hype in national news. Hurricanes and tropical storms are named; tornadoes are chased; and floods are documented for their high-water marks. Each natural disaster is no doubt extremely serious in its own right, but did you know that motor vehicle accidents in bad weather are responsible for more deaths each year than all of these storms combined?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which used 10-year averages for this study, there are more than 5.7 million vehicle crashes per year. About 22 percent of those are related to dangerous weather conditions, and on average, about 5,900 people are killed per year in those weather-related crashes.
By comparison, the average annual number of deaths due to lightning, heat, tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding is 375-not an insignificant number, and equally tragic, but nowhere near as high as "everyday" accidents.
Does the data surprise you?
We all know that we should take more care when driving on wet, foggy days. Rain and wet pavement were the top two causes of weather-related crashes in the study. Whenever weather conditions change suddenly, drivers and passengers are at risk. Blowing dust or sand, rain squalls, downpours, fog and mixed precipitation can all impact visibility with no warning, which can trigger accidents and chain reaction pile-ups.
What can you do to stay safe?
Short of staying home, there are actions you can take that will limit your risk when you drive in inclement weather. If you're caught in a heavy downpour, avoid hydroplaning (when your car's tires lose contact with the road) by slowing down. And don't tailgate; in fact, do the opposite. Add more time between you and the car in front of you.
If you're caught driving in strong wind, be aware of how it affects larger vehicles like RVs, big trucks and buses. They may not be able to control their vehicles as well, so steer clear and keep your distance. Keep both hands on the wheel and be ready for gusts that may attempt to push you out of your lane.
If all else fails...
You might be doing everything right, only to have someone else do everything wrong. If you experience a motor vehicle accident that leaves you with injuries and financial obligations, it's a good idea to talk to an attorney about what happened. Find out what options may be available to you.