Californians often mistakenly assume they have it easy when it comes to dangerous road conditions. Unfortunately, this belief can prove deadly. Rain is considered the most dangerous driving hazard across the United States but especially in California where oil can build up on roads for months before it rains.
Across the country, 73% of weather-related traffic accidents happen on wet roads and when it's raining according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Here's how rain impacts roads in California and what you should know to stay safe.
If you have been injured in a car accident due to wet road conditions, see how an attorney can help to determine if another's negligence was a factor. Contact our Fresno car accident lawyers for help!
The Dangers of Wet Road Conditions in Fresno
Rain should always be taken seriously on Fresno roads. Dry areas are more prone to rain-related traffic accidents than wet regions for several reasons:
The build-up of oil on the road becomes slick after the first rain
Hydroplaning can happen when the vehicle's tires travel on water instead of gripping the road
Driver inexperience with driving in the rain
The biggest and most overlooked threat from the rain? An unseen layer of oil on the roads. Millions of cars use the highways through Fresno every day and the tiny amounts of oil they drip adds up over time.
Because Fresno can go months between rain showers, this sheen of oil accumulates and creates a highly slippery surface when it finally rains. Road oil isn't as big of a concern in regions accustomed to frequent rain as the oil is washed away often. The longer it has been since the last rain, the greater the danger on the road.
Hydroplaning also poses a threat. Hydroplaning happens when the vehicle's tires lift off the road and instead travel on water instead of the road surface. If there is even 1/12" of water on the road, the vehicle's tires must displace a gallon of water every second to keep the tires on the road. Hydroplaning can occur with even a small amount of water on the road and cause you to lose the ability to steer and brake.
Inexperience can also play a role in traffic accidents in Fresno. Many California drivers simply don't have much experience driving safely in the rain and do not realize how slippery and dangerous the roads can be.
All of these factors are made even worse when roadways themselves are notoriously dangerous. Fresno's Highway 99 was recently named the most dangerous roadway in the country with more fatal accidents per 100 miles than any other road in the United States. Highway 99 is known for its poor lighting and dangerous ramps and it only becomes more dangerous when it rains.
Staying Safe When It Rains
All drivers have a duty to exercise caution, slow down, and drive carefully when weather conditions increase the risk of road hazards. The following tips can help you stay safe on California roadways during and after rainfall.
Drive slowly. When the road is slick, you should leave more room between you and the next car. Driving slowly also lowers the risk of hydroplaning.
Know what to do if you hydroplane. As soon as you feel the car hydroplaning, take your foot slowly off the accelerator and steer straight until the tires grip the road again. Don't make sudden turns or try to hit the brake.
Avoid cruise control. When used on wet roads, cruise control increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle. Remember that you may need to quickly reduce your speed and this can be hard with cruise control. If you hydroplane with cruise control engaged, it can actually make your car speed up.
Slow down slowly and avoid hard brakes. Slamming on the brakes upsets your car's balance and may cause you to lose control on slippery roads.
Keep your headlights on. Under California law, your headlights must be on when you are using the windshield wipers. Headlights increase your visibility and make it easier for other drivers to see you.
Injured in a Rain-Related Accident? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Unfortunately, rain causes thousands of accidents in the Central Valley and some of them result in serious and life-changing injuries. If you have been injured in a car accident and you believe the other driver was at least partially at fault for failing to exercise caution in the rain, a car accident attorney in Fresno can help you explore your legal options and build your case.
All drivers have a legal duty to drive safely according to weather and road conditions. However, some drivers who cause an accident will claim they did not know the road was hazardous and that it was an unforeseen condition.
While insurance companies may sometimes accept this defense in an attempt to avoid paying a settlement, road hazards caused by rain are foreseeable and should be taken into account while driving. An experienced car accident attorney can help you prove your claim by demonstrating that the other driver was negligent and their lack of consideration for foreseeable risks contributed to your injuries.