Everyone knows that Birmingham has a reputation for hot, muggy weather – and lots of it. But like the rest of Alabama, we experience a fair share of rain-soaked days as well.
A recent study of weather-related crashes put Alabama near the worst in the nation, with a rate of fatal wrecks per million drivers that’s more than 50 percent higher than the national average.
Taking risks in the rain
Rain is the most common cause of poor weather conditions, with more than 80 percent of crashes in inclement weather involving rain, researchers say.
Rainy days present a set of driving challenges that not all drivers meet. Traffic safety experts warn drivers to slow down when streets are wet and often slippery (which decreases vehicle braking effectiveness), and visibility is diminished, but there are drivers who throw caution to the wind in bad weather, taking risks by speeding and tailgating in conditions that amplify the dangers of poor driving habits.
Far too often, these careless drivers cause motor vehicle crashes that result in serious injuries or fatalities.
According to the study by insurance website autoinsurancequote.com, the national average for weather-related wrecks is 20 fatal crashes for every million drivers. Colorado has the fewest weather-related fatal wrecks with four per million drivers.
Alabama has a rate nearly eight times as high, with 31 fatal crashes per million drivers, placing us 45th in the nation. Only South Carolina (32 deadly crashes per million drivers), Kentucky (34), Mississippi (38), Wyoming (45) and West Virginia (46) fared worse.
One of the contributing factors in weather-related crashes is risk-takers who drive over the speed limits exactly when they should instead be slowing down. They’re sharing streets and highways with more cautious motorists, who do slow down when roadways are wet and visibility decreases. The mix of decelerating and accelerating vehicles can result in rear-end collisions and violent crashes at intersections.
Because auto brakes rely on friction to slow vehicles, they become less effective when rain, acting as a lubricant, lessens friction. The bottom line is that in rainy weather, braking distances are often longer.
Bad weather driving tips
Experts say drivers should slow down in rain and allow for more distance between vehicles.
They also advise that when you’re driving in poor visibility conditions such as rain and fog to occasionally pump your brakes to alert drivers behind you to your position and speed.
And after you drive through puddles, take your foot off of the gas and feather your brakes to create friction and dry the brakes.
In most cases, it isn’t the rain that causes crashes and injuries, it is the drivers making poor choices that are amplified in downpours. The dangers of speeding, tailgating and distracted driving are even greater in wet conditions.