The Massachusetts winter may have passed but spring brings its own set of driving challenges. Spring is known as the rain season. Heavy rain and slick roadways and highways can be as dangerous as driving in snow. Couple that with careless driving in the rain and you have a very hazardous situation.
The spring weather is usually nice, but it does present dangers on the road. Shockingly, statistics indicate that “rain related crashes result in approximately 3,400 fatalities and 357,300 injuries annually”. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Climate Studies determined that precipitation increases the likelihood of a fatal car crash by 34%. Additionally, according to the Federal Highway Administration “each year 75% of weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement and 47% happen during rainfall.” Considering these statistics, now is not the time to let your guard down when driving.
Recognize the Many Dangers the Spring Weather Poses to Drivers in Massachusetts
We all drive slowly and carefully in Massachusetts when there’s snow covering the highways in the winter. But when it rains it seems some drivers don’t worry as much. Recently, Framingham experienced heavy downpours and people were in the high-speed lane on the Mass Pike (I-90) driving at or above the speed limit, seemingly without a care. It’s essential to understand that any precipitation presents challenges when driving. Understanding these challenges and how to manage them may help keep you and others safe.
Hydroplaning Presents a Major Driving Hazard
The number one reason for loss of control in rain is hydroplaning. Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road and essentially ride on top of a layer of water. It is a combination of weight and speed that determines hydroplaning. When driving 30 mile per hour, the weight of the motor vehicle keeps the tires in contact with the pavement. Increase your speed to 60 or 70 miles per hour or greater, you risk your tires losing contact with the pavement. Your vehicle begins to ride on top of a layer of water and steering and control are momentarily lost. The harder the rain fall the more likely you can hydroplane.
How Can You Avoid Hydroplaning?
Aside from lowering your speed, having good tires with proper tread depth will help avoid being caught hydroplaning. The idea behind tread design is to displace water thereby keeping tires in contact this the road. You can easily tell if the vehicle in front of you has good tires during a rainstorm. The tires are displacing the water as the vehicle travels and the result is heavy spray coming off the tires. Following to close to such a vehicle could almost blind your vision of the road ahead.
Also, make sure your tires have proper inflation to assist in preventing hydroplaning. An underinflated tire can’t displace water as effectively as a tire properly inflated. Leave extra room between you and the vehicle you’re following.
Heavy Rain Can Affect Safe Driving
Heavy rain in the spring can often decreases a driver’s visibility. The rain hitting your windshield and wipers going back and forth can limit visibility. Likewise, water coming off the cars and trucks ahead on on the roads and highways also affect vision. I’m sure we’ve all been behind a trailer truck on the Mass Pike, I-93, or I-95 in Massachusetts when it’s raining. The water and mist coming off these large trucks can be blinding.
Poor visibility creates very dangerous conditions and may cause drivers to be unable to see other cars or pedestrians on the roads. Even though you may have your windshield wipers on, your visibility is constrained. It is worse when your windshield is dirty and the dirt mixes with the rain and is then smeared on the windshield. Restricted vision while driving can make it difficult identify obstacles or hazards on the road or highway and to make proper maneuvers to avoid these dangers.
Minimize the Dangers of Driving in Heavy Rain
Some may advise not to drive during a heavy rainstorm. This, of course, would be the safest choice. But let’s face it, life presents many demands and most of us must venture out even in the rain to meet those demands. Drivers must use common sense though - if you find yourself in a heavy downpour, the best course of action may be to pull safely off the roadway and wait until the rain lets up. If you must drive during heavy rain or the rainy season, however, proper preparations will improve safe travels.
Evaluate Your Windshield Wipers
Take the time to clean your windshield. As mentioned above, a dirty windshield mixed with the rain and the windshield wipers can cause smearing and make it hard to see. Also, the spring is the best time to make sure your wiper blades are in good condition. Windshield wipers take a beating during the harsh winters in Massachusetts. The wipers are often used to clear the windshields of snow and ice. This can create tears in the blades and leave streaks when used in the spring during the rain.
Keep Those Headlights On
Also, when driving in the rain, it’s always best to have your headlights on. Most vehicles nowadays are equipped with automatic or daytime headlights. However, it’s good practice to make sure the lights are set to automatic or daytime and actually get out to check to make sure they are actually on. The use of headlights are invaluable in low visibility conditions, even in a light rain condition.
Don’t Forget to Use Your Defroster
Additionally, use your defroster with the air conditioner to ensure the front windshield does not fog. We all know that during the rain, our windshields tend to fog up. A foggy windshield combined with limited visibility from rain and mist off of other cars and trucks can be extremely dangerous.
Car Accidents During the Rain Often Raise Issues of Liability
Sometimes, regardless of how careful we are or how much we prepare for dangerous weather, car accidents are unavoidable. If you were injured in a car accident that was caused by a careless or negligent driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our Framingham car accident lawyers have helped hundreds of accident victims recover the financial compensation they deserved for losses and injuries suffered in car crashes. Though, the injured party must be able to sustain their burden of proof that the other driver was negligent and caused the crash and injuries.
However, when a driver loses control of a vehicle during a rainstorm in Massachusetts and causes an accident and injuries to others, an auto insurance carrier often raises issues of liability (i.e., fault). An accident victim may think it’s clear that the other driver was at fault. However, auto insurance adjusters are trained to dispute personal injury claims from car crashes that happen in the rain.
The basis of their argument is that, perhaps, you were traveling too fast for the conditions or contributed to the crash and your own injuries. For example, if you are traveling on the Mass Pike through Natick or Framingham and are struck by a vehicle that lost control due to hydroplaning, chances are, the other driver may tell his or her insurance company that you also hydroplaned or otherwise contributed to the crash. The other driver’s insurance company may then deny or claim that you were comparatively negligent, which would limit any compensation they may pay for your injuries.
Our office represented an elderly gentleman who was severely injured from that exact scenario. While traveling on Interstate 495 in Westborough during a down pour, a vehicle speeding to his left lost control and swerved into his lane. The resulting crash left our client with a fractured limb and concussion. Initially, the insurance company investigated the crash and raised issues of liability. However, our office was able to obtain evidence that contradicted the other driver’s version of how the accident occurred and our client received a large settlement.
The experienced Framingham injury attorneys at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP specialize in car accident cases and regularly take on the insurance companies and litigate accident cases. We know what steps to take and how obtain the compensation accident victims deserve. We help guide our injury clients through the legal process, answer all their questions, and deal with the medical bills and insurance companies so they can focus on your treatment, family and getting better.