Just a Drizzle Can Cause Fatal Crashes New Study Finds


This springtime in Chicago has been the 8th rainiest year on record, according to WGN’s Tom Skilling. Although that may be good news for the flowers, it can be dangerous for everyone else. A new study by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that the risk of fatal car crashes rises by 34%, the wetter the roads are.

Even a light drizzle raised the risk of crashes by 27%, the study found.  Scott Stevens and his team at the North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies reported that less than 1/10 of an inch accumulation of rain is enough to turn road conditions. Moderate rain boosts the chance of motor injury and fatality up to 75%, and heavy rain nearly doubles that to nearly 150%.

Stevens and his team looked at information from the 48 states in the continental U.S. and found that the risks especially increase during the morning rush hour, and in the winter months. Morning rush hour provides more congestion on the roads, and thus more opportunity for a crash.

Stevens and his team analyzed 125,012 fatal car crashes from 2006-2011, taking into account the number of cars on the road and exact weather radar data. This is the first study to use the data first-hand instead of drawing from information from police reports and weather station information. This way, Stevens and his team could look at the density of precipitation and see exactly when conditions go from risky to fatal.

Fatality from a motor vehicle crash is among the leading causes of injury death in the United States, according to the study. Nationally, heavy precipitation is becoming more common increasing in intensity, making it more important than ever to understand the changing risks of injury on the road. The attorneys at Zneimer & Zneimer advise motorists this season to take extra precaution on the road, even in light drizzles, and to exercise vigilance and good judgment. Call our office at 773-516-4100 to schedule a free consultation about an injury you have had on the road in bad weather.




Stevens, S., C. Schreck, S. Saha, J. Bell, and K. Kunkel, 2019: Precipitation and fatal motor vehicle crashes: continental analysis with high-resolution radar data. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0001.1. Accessed at <https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/BAMS-D-18-0001.1

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