Rain a Factor in Over 500,000 Crashes Every Year

 Rain a Factor in Over 500,000 Crashes Every Year
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AAA offers tips for drivers during spring, when risk increases

Providence, RI, March 27, 2024—Spring showers might bring flowers, but they also bring crashes due to wet pavement. 


Every year, hundreds of thousands of crashes nationwide are attributed to rainy conditions: there were 539,290 crashes, 143,523 injuries and more than 2,600 deaths in 2021 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 


The risk of a crash on wet pavement is especially high during the period known as meteorological spring, from March 1 to May 31, when many regions often experience an increase in rainfall. 


According to crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an annual average of 1,044 people died and 87,455 people were injured between 2017 and 2021 in crashes that occurred in rain or on wet roads during meteorological spring.  


“A wet road is a treacherous road, even after a gentle sprinkle,” said Jillian Young, Director of Public Relations for AAA Northeast. “As little as one twelfth of an inch of water can cause new tires to lose traction with the road at speeds as low as 35 mph. When it rains, slow down and give yourself extra room to stop.” 


To navigate spring rains safely, AAA offers the following tips: 


Remember that tires are the most important safety equipment. Compared to new tires, worn out tires require an additional 87 feet to stop from 60 mph on wet roads – the length of a semi-truck, according to AAA research. When new tires have already stopped, the worn tires are still traveling at 40 mph. Check your tires and replace them if the tread depth is below 4/32”. Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, it’s time to start shopping for new tires. To keep your tires in good condition, check tire pressure regularly and keep them properly inflated using the recommended pressure listed on the decal on the driver’s doorsill. 


Improve visibility and stay visible. Wet roads aren’t the only danger when it rains. Rainfall reduces visibility, too. Replace streaking, chattering and worn-out wiper blades in the spring. Clean the windshield with a solution that’s safe for automotive finishes and seals, and don’t forget to clean the inside of the windshield with a car-safe glass cleaner and microfiber cloth. Spring is also a good time to wash winter grit and grime from the exterior of a vehicle, which creates an opportunity to check the condition of headlights and lenses. Aging headlight plastics can yellow and discolor over time: products are available to refinish and reseal them. 


Don’t rely on safety technology in the rain. Modern advanced driver assistance technologies can trigger false positives or simply stop working in the rain. AAA research on lane keeping assistance and automatic emergency braking systems found that both systems were impacted by moderate to heavy rainfall. Test vehicles traveling at 35 mph collided with a stopped vehicle in the lane ahead one-third of the time. Lane keeping assistance struggled even more, with test vehicles departing their lanes 69% of the time. Cruise control should also be avoided on wet roads. To prevent loss of traction, the driver may need to reduce the car’s speed by lifting off the accelerator, which cannot be accomplished when cruise control is engaged. 


Slow down. Slowing down during wet weather reduces the risk of hydroplaning, when the tires ride on a film of water. Even with new tires, stopping distance increases and maneuverability decreases on wet pavement. Driving slower and increasing following distance is essential to avoid causing a crash. 


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