When rain and thunderstorms roll into town, collisions on wet roadways always seem to follow. From single-car wrecks to multi-vehicle collisions and pileups, accidents in rainy weather can inflict devastating damage to vehicles and catastrophic injuries to their occupants.
There is no question driving in bad weather raises your risk of an accident and injury. However, wet roads contribute to the cause of deadly accidents even when the rain isn’t falling… especially when they’re combined with reckless driving behaviors that heighten the risk of a crash.
Let’s take a closer look at the dangers of wet roads, how reckless driving on them can lead to tragic accidents, and how an experienced accident injury lawyer can help victims obtain the compensation they deserve.
The Dangers of Wet Pavement
Wet road conditions can make driving a challenge. They’re an obvious hazard to motorists, pedestrians, and others. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tracked and reported hazards and crashes involving various weather conditions over a 10-year period. Wet pavement not only accounted for the highest percentage of overall weather-related accidents, but it also correlated with the highest rates of accident injuries and fatalities.
The DOT reported an annual average of over 860,000 accidents related to wet pavement. These accidents included 324,000 injuries and over 4,000 fatalities annually. These staggering numbers reveal that wet pavement poses a real danger to drivers and passengers across the country.
Not Just a Rainy Day Danger
As anyone knows, wet pavement will occur during and after a rainstorm, and can combine with other hazards such as decreased visibility and high winds to create dangerous driving conditions.
However, drivers can encounter wet pavement at other times, too. Roads stay wet after the rain stops falling, of course. Mist, fog, and morning dew can all also deposit moisture on the pavement and make it slick. In colder parts of the country, melting snow or ice can also cause wet pavement, even on a sunny day.
The possibility of encountering wet roads in non-rainy conditions poses a particular hazard because driver behaviors can change with the weather. Many drivers slow down during rainfall because they anticipate slippery roads. However, drivers do not necessarily expect to drive on wet roads in bright weather, which can result in them exercising less caution.
Dangerous Water-Related Driving Conditions
Water on a road surface can affect drivers and vehicles in various ways. Some risks are apparent just by looking at the road, but others tend to stay hidden until a driver feels their effects.
The many dangers of driving on a wet surface include:
- Reduced friction between vehicle tires and the roadway, which makes stopping harder and increases the chance of a loss of control
- The mixture of water with oil, other substances, and debris creating slick surfaces
- Glare from sun or headlights reflecting off of the wet road surface and temporarily blinding drivers
- Accumulations of standing water, especially when drivers cannot determine the depth
- Damage to road surfaces caused by water seepage or runoff, including broken pavement, low shoulders, heaves, sinkholes, and potholes
Any driver may struggle with keeping control of a vehicle upon encountering these conditions. A reckless driver—someone who speeds, or simply disregards these hazards—runs an especially high risk of getting into an accident when these conditions arise.
The Toll of Wet Weather Accidents in Texas
The vast landscape of Texas sees a wide variety of weather conditions throughout the year that can leave its roads wet and slick. From thunderstorms, hurricanes, fog, and even ice and snow, Texas drivers must prepare to encounter any number of wet weather conditions on their daily drives and commutes.
The Texas Department of Transportation reports that the majority of traffic accidents in the Lone Star State occur during clear or cloudy conditions. However, the riskiest inclement weather condition leading to accidents in the state is rain. Out of over 560,000 total Texas crashes in a recent year, over 50,000 occurred in rainy conditions. 9,082 of those accidents caused injuries, and 234 involved fatalities. In addition, snow and sleet accounted for just shy of 1,000 crashes, including 2 fatal accidents.
As frequent as wet road accidents are in Texas, these statistics still only reflect part of the toll wet roads take on Texas motorists, because they do not necessarily capture the role of wet pavement in accidents that occurred when it wasn’t actively raining, sleeting, or snowing.
Only Drivers Can Prevent Wet Road Driving Accidents
Wet roads by themselves do not cause accidents. Crashes happen on them because of the poor choices drivers make behind the wheel as they react to wet road conditions.
Common mistakes that drivers can make that heighten their risk of getting into a wet pavement accident include:
- Misperceiving rain as less dangerous than snow or ice
- Speeding in wet conditions
- Following other vehicles too closely on wet roads
- Driving on tires with insufficient tread
- Leaving home without a pair of sunglasses to combat wet road glare
- Driving through flooded areas
Reckless Driving Can Lead to Hydroplaning on Wet Roads
Wet pavement accidents often result from hydroplaning, in which a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road surface and the driver loses control. Hydroplaning can occur in any wet road condition and it can be a truly frightening experience.
Driving behaviors that heighten the risk of hydroplaning include:
- Driving full-speed through standing water – It takes very little water accumulation for a vehicle to hydroplane. Drivers frequently make the mistake of failing to slow down when they encounter standing water, and their tires lose contact with the road as a result.
- Speeding on any wet road surface – Traveling too fast on wet roads can cause your car’s tires to lose the ability to maintain traction. Keep in mind that posted speed limits are often for ideal conditions, and that you must slow down when roads get wet to adjust for the danger of losing control.
- Driving with insufficient tire tread – Worn-out tires with insufficient tread cannot pump enough water away to keep your tires in contact with the road surface.
Wet Road Accidents Cause Serious Injuries and Fatalities
According to the DOT, over 4,000 deaths and roughly 180,000 injuries each year can be linked to wet pavement accidents. Slick road surfaces, decreased visibility, damaged roadways, and heavy traffic often combine to create dangerous driving conditions and increase the likelihood of catastrophic accidents.
Wet pavement accident injuries can range from minor to severe, but any injury can have a lasting impact on an accident victim. The destruction of your vehicle, medical expenses related to your injuries, and the impact of those injuries on your daily routine can take an unexpected and heavy toll on your life, now and in the future.
Common wet pavement accident injuries include:
- Brain or spinal cord injuries
- Fractured bones or dislocations
- Injuries to internal organs
- Lacerations, bruises, or contusions
- Soft tissue injuries including damaged ligaments and muscles
Tips for Safe Driving in Wet Weather
Driving in wet conditions can present many dangers to drivers and passengers traveling on city streets, expressways, and rural roads. While you cannot control the other actions of drivers on the road that could place you at risk of an accident and injury, there are some steps you can take during adverse weather conditions to stay as safe as possible.
Check the Weather Before Heading Out
A few minutes can make all the difference. Use a weather app to check and see if a storm is passing through. Get into the habit of checking the weather along your route before heading out.
If there is dangerous weather approaching, consider delaying your drive by a few minutes or take an alternate route that can present fewer dangers and risks.
For example, highways during rain and thunderstorms can be dangerous. Vehicles will be traveling at high speed along slick and congested roads. If you can travel safely via an alternate route, then consider doing so. Just be careful to avoid potential flood zones on rural or less-traveled byways.
Keep Your Lights and Windshield Wipers On
When dark clouds roll in, turn on your headlights to improve visibility for yourself and other drivers. As the rain begins to fall, turn on your windshield wipers to maintain a close eye on your surroundings and vehicles ahead.
Make sure to routinely check on the wear and tear of your windshield wipers and replace them as needed. Worn-out wipers will do little to clear moisture from your windshield and can make your visibility even worse with smudging.
Maintain Your Tires
One of the most important steps you can take to stay safe on wet roadways is to ensure your vehicle’s tires have sufficient tread for safe travel. Low tread and worn down tires will put you at a greater risk of hydroplaning during wet conditions.
Stay Alert and Drive Slow
Take extra precautions when driving in the rain. Avoid all distractions and remain alert during inclement weather. Reduce your speed and give yourself ample space to stop or move out of the way if there is an unexpected hazard up ahead. Wet roads increase the stopping distance for your vehicle needs at any speed.
Avoid Flooded Streets
Accumulated water increases the risk of your vehicle hydroplaning. It can be difficult to avoid water accumulation on the roads especially during heavy downpours. Try your best to avoid flood-prone areas. Get to higher ground as quickly as possible.
If you find yourself in a situation where you hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle, take your foot off of the accelerator and maneuver your vehicle to safety. Slamming on your brakes or making sudden turns can cause your vehicle to continue to barrel down the road and increase your risk of a rollover or collision.
Pull Over and Wait it Out
If the weather has unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse, or you find yourself in a dangerous situation on wet paved roads, then consider pulling over to wait a short time and reassess the situation. Oftentimes, storms move through quickly, and just a few minutes can make a big difference in the conditions you will face on the road.
Compensation for Wet Road Reckless Driving Accidents
An accident on wet pavement can lead to severe damage to your vehicle, as well as catastrophic injuries to you and your loved ones.
In a crash caused by someone else’s reckless driving in wet conditions, you may take legal action seeking compensation for your injuries and losses, including payment for:
- Expenses related to medical care, treatment, and rehabilitation
- Reimbursement for lost wages due to missed work and impacts on your future income or earnings
- Pain and suffering related to the accident and injuries
- The wrongful death of a loved one lost in the accident
- Personal property or vehicle repair or replacement
No one can guarantee that you will receive compensation after getting hurt in a wet road-related collision caused by a reckless driver. However, hiring an experienced accident injury lawyer who has years of experience representing victims of wet road accidents can put you in the best possible position to obtain the payments you deserve.
Legal Representation for a Wet Pavement Accident
Wet pavement accidents do not happen solely because of the weather. Reckless driving behaviors—such as distracted driving, speeding, and improper vehicle maintenance—can all heighten the risk of a serious accident on wet roads.
If a wet road accident injured you or a loved one, an experienced car accident lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve by advocating for your rights in and out of court. Don’t delay in seeking the legal help you need. Contact a car accident attorney to discuss your legal rights and your potential case.
Since starting his firm in 1999, Stewart J. Guss has had the honor of representing clients from all over the world, helping them recover from even the most catastrophic injuries.
Today, thanks to a strong belief in those values of compassion, respect, and approachability, the firm has grown to employ over 120 legal professionals in numerous offices across 4 states, with nationwide reach.