When it comes to safety on Washington roads what people may believe isn’t always accurate. For example, most people would probably tell you that snowy or icy road conditions are the top cause of weather-related car crashes, especially since Washington hasn’t made a major investment in snow-removal infrastructure.
In reality, even though winter weather has a strong association with collision risk, federal traffic data makes it clear that the year-round risk of rain is actually responsible for far more crashes every year in Washington than snow or sleet.
How many collisions involve rainy weather or wet pavement?
According to federal collision data provided by the Federal Highway Administration, a specialized subset of the Department of Transportation, roughly 47% of the weather-related crashes that occur annually happen when there is rain actively falling, and a staggering 75% of these collisions happen when the pavement is wet.
Even minor rainfall can lead to decreased tire traction, increased stopping distances and elevated risk of hydroplaning. One of the reasons that rainy weather and wet pavement are so dangerous is that people don’t recognize them as the safety threats that they truly are.
Most drivers don’t slow down enough to offset the challenges of wet pavement. They fail to give themselves extra time for their daily commute when there’s a light sprinkle coming down outside. They save those kinds of precautions for times of inclement weather, such as severe snow storms.
How can drivers reduce rain-related risk?
Being aware of the weather is beneficial whenever possible. Of course, meteorologists frequently make mistakes, but they can at least help you know when you might need to allocate more time for a drive because of the weather.
Anytime there will be wet pavement or rain, you will likely want to reduce your overall speed. Increasing the distance between the front of your vehicle and the rear end of other vehicles is also important, as it can take longer to come to a full stop on wet pavement. Whenever possible, especially if the rain is heavy, it is better to delay your commute or time your travel so that the roads are dry if possible.
Understanding the risk that comes with rainy road conditions and acting to protect yourself and the passengers in your vehicle could help minimize the possibility of a weather-related car crash. In a nutshell? Being proactive is key.