Risk of fatal car wreck rises even in light rain

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Seth Borenstein

WASH­ING­TON — Even light rain sig­nif­i­cantly in­creases your risk of a fatal car crash, a new study finds.

The wet­ter the roads, the dead­lier they be­come, with rain, snow and ice in­creas­ing the risk of deadly car crashes by 34 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a study in the Bul­letin of the Amer­i­can Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal So­ci­ety.

Light rain — “We’re talk­ing a driz­zle, just at the point where you might con­sider tak­ing an um­brella out,” said study lead au­thor Scott Stevens — in­creased the fatal crash risk by 27 per­cent

Stevens, a data an­a­lyst and me­te­o­rol­o­gist, and col­leagues looked at 125,012 fatal car crashes in the Lower 48 states from 2006 to 2011, fac­tor­ing in how many cars are on the road, to cal­cu­late the risk of a fatal ac­ci­dent.

While other stud­ies have used po­lice re­ports and the near­est weather sta­tion to cal­cu­late rain and snow con­di­tions, Stevens said his is the first study to use more pre­cise weather radar data. It was able to dis­tin­guish how hard the rain or snow was fall­ing to come up with re­sults show­ing an in­crease in fatal crashes even in rain of less than one-tenth of an inch per hour.

“Peo­ple slow down when it starts to rain heav­ily, but I think they un­der-ap­pre­ci­ate the risk of light rain,” Stevens said re­cently.

With mod­er­ate rain the risk of fatal car crashes is 75 per­cent more than in dry weather, Stevens said, and with heavy rain it’s nearly two-and-a-half times more risky.

The North­ern Rockies and Up­per Mid­west had the high­est risk of fatal crashes with rainy and snowy weather, while the risks were low­est in the North­east and South­east.

Charles Farmer, vice pres­i­dent of re­search at the In­sur­ance In­sti­tute for High­way Safety, who wasn’t part of the study, said it makes sense that your risk goes up in bad weather.


A new study in­volv­ing 125,012 ac­ci­dents found that the risk of a fatal crash in­creased by 27 per­cent in light rain.

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