Avoiding Accidents on Wet Roads
All of us who live in Lafayette, Acadiana and Louisiana know what to expect in the summer. Hot temperatures and showers and storms that can pop up unexpectedly. We are well into hurricane season and with that comes frequent summer storms that head our way from the Gulf.
Driving in bad weather can be dangerous and regularly plays a role in significant car and truck accidents with personal injury. At Joseph Joy and Associates, we have represented clients who have been injured during or just following bad weather. Often, the negligent driver failed to take into account the significant hazards posed by a wet, slick road or a downpour.
You can’t sue Mother Nature for bad weather but there are a multitude of preventable and foreseeable factors that can point to negligence and liability for one’s injuries. Some of the many factors that come into play when analyzing fault include speeding, distracted driving, condition of the negligent driver, condition of the offending vehicle, especially tires and the potentially negligent design and maintenance of the roadway.
When personal injury results, you need an experienced attorney to navigate the complex liability and fact issues at stake. If you are injured due to someone else’s fault, rest assured their insurance adjuster will be in touch to try and settle asap. Do not negotiate with the insurance company without an attorney. Call the personal injury team at Joseph Joy and Associates so we can evaluate your claim and negotiate on your behalf and even go to trial if necessary.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as we enter the wet weather season in Louisiana.
Make sure your car or truck is in good working order. Vehicle owners and operators should remember to maintain their vehicles, especially their tires, on a regular basis. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration:
- Drivers in the United States put more than 2,969 billion miles on their tires
- There are nearly 11,000 tire-related crashes and
- Almost 200 people will die in those crashes
Inspect your tires at least once a month and before long road trips. Remember to check your spare tire. Look closely at your tire treads and replace tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.
Check the age of each tire. Some vehicle manufacturers recommend that tires be replaced every six years regardless of use, but check your owner’s manual to find out.
Shockingly, only 19% of consumers properly check and inflate their tires. Fortunately, vehicles made after 2007 have a tire pressure monitoring system that alerts the driver when tire pressure is significantly low. Here is an alarming statistic: One in four cars has at least one tire that is significantly under-inflated.
It is critical that tire treads get a good grip on the road at all times. If you have ever experienced hydroplaning on a wet roadway, you know how it feels when your tires can no longer guide your vehicle. It is scary and dangerous. When a vehicle “hydroplanes,” the tires lose contact with the road and have little or no traction. You may not be able to steer or to brake and the vehicle is in danger of spinning out of control. The Louisiana Dept. of Transportation defines it as “loss of contact between vehicle tires and roadway surface that occurs when vehicles travel at high speeds on pavement surfaces with standing water.” It is a frightening experience.
A speeding vehicle can trigger hydroplaning. Traction is reduced the faster you go. In worst case scenarios, hydroplaning can result in a complete loss of traction so motorists should reduce their speed when driving in wet weather.
What to do if your vehicle hydroplanes
Keep calm. According to FEMA’s Vehicle Safety Initiative, to regain control during hydroplaning and skidding, the driver must compensate by countersteering, turning the wheel in the direction of the skid, and removing the foot from the accelerator. Good tires with deep tread help prevent hydroplaning. The deep tread forces the water to escape from under the tires and tends to prevent complete hydroplaning at normal highway speeds.
Beware of flooded roads
The bayous and rivers in Acadiana can fill up quickly. Heed flash flood warnings and do not drive into high water. Swiftly moving water can pick up and carry a vehicle away. According to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, just 6 inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger vehicles, causing loss of control or possible stalling. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
Keep your Distance
Louisiana highway officials preach that at 60 mph, if you cannot see at least 400 feet ahead, you are driving too fast for your visibility. At 30 mph, if you cannot see at least 150 feet ahead, you may not be driving safely. Otherwise, it may be too late to stop without hitting the object.
Here’s the relevant state law:
R.S. 32:81. Following vehicles; exceptions
- The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.
- The driver of a motor truck, when traveling upon a highway outside a business or residential area, shall not follow another motor truck within four hundred feet, but this shall not be so construed as to prevent one motor truck from overtaking and passing another.
Know the Car You Are Driving
Read your vehicle’s manual to familiarize yourself with the features on your vehicle — such as antilock brakes and electronic stability control — and how the features work. When renting a car, become familiar with the vehicle before driving it off the lot.
Know how to use your vehicle’s defogger. Read your vehicle’s manual and get up to speed on all of its safety features including your vehicle’s defogger. All vehicles are required by law to have them:
49 CFR § 571.103 – Standard No. 103; Windshield defrosting and defogging systems
S4.1 Each vehicle shall have a windshield defrosting and defogging system.
S4.2 Each passenger car windshield defrosting and defogging system shall meet the requirements of section 3 of SAE Recommended Practice J902 (1964) (incorporated by reference, see § 571.5) when tested in accordance with S4.3, except that “the critical area” specified in paragraph 3.1 of SAE Recommended Practice J902 (1964) shall be that established as Area C in accordance with Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 104, “Windshield Wiping and Washing Systems,” and “the entire windshield” specified in paragraph 3.3 of SAE Recommended Practice J902 (1964) shall be that established as Area A in accordance with § 571.104.
Before heading out, make sure to check the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Don’t rush through your trip, and allow plenty of time to get to your destination safely. And always familiarize yourself with directions and maps before you go, even if you use a GPS system, and let others know your route and anticipated arrival time.
Turn on your lights in bad weather
Turn on your headlights when driving in inclement weather. Do not use your high beams and do not use your hazard lights. The Louisiana State Police emphasize that hazard lights should only be used if a vehicle is disabled in the roadway or on the shoulder.
State Police say there is no need to use your flashers while driving in the rain. It is actually against Louisiana law. It makes it difficult for other drivers to see signal and brake lights. The law requires vehicles turn on their headlights between sunset and sunrise. When, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of five hundred feet ahead. When moisture in the air or precipitation necessitates the continuous use of windshield wipers. R.S. 32:301 R.S. 32:322
Make sure you windshield wipers are working well. Rain-X windshield wiper maker recommends that “Wiper blades should be replaced every six months to a year or as soon as you notice a difference in driving visibility. When wiper blades no longer make proper contact with the windshield surface, they can begin to squeak, chatter, skip, smear or streak reducing driving visibility.”
Drive defensively and keep your vehicle maintained. But accidents do happen no matter what precautions you take. If you’ve been in an accident with injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact us at Joseph Joy and Associates in Lafayette and we’ll assess your case. Call us at (337) 232-8123 for an appointment.