Another rainy season is just around the corner here for us in Southwest Florida, where an average of 56 inches of rain falls annually. Just as safely navigating snow and ice are critical skills for drivers up north, careful driving in severe thunderstorms is imperative for motorists in South Florida. As a longtime Fort Myers car accident lawyer, over the years I’ve seen too many preventable crashes caused by drivers who failed to use adequate caution during heavy rain.
Although turbulent weather can be cited as a factor in a collision, it doesn’t negate the fault of drivers who operate their vehicles with less care than they should during a downpour.
If you drive in Florida, you owe certain reasonable duties of care to your passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, construction workers, bicyclists and anyone else sharing the road. Drivers are expected to take any and all precautions to drive safely at all times. Reasonable care is expected with regard to every vehicle or person in the foreseeable zone of danger. That means mostly driving at a speed that is reasonable for the amount of traffic on the road, but it also means adjusting one’s speed and driving behavior in accordance with weather conditions.
For example, a driver caught in a sudden rainstorm may be moving at the speed limit but still deemed to be negligently operating their vehicle because of the significantly reduced visibility and increased potential to skid and slide.
The danger of low visibility in South Florida storms was recently underscored in a legislative decision to formally allow drivers to use hazard lights in downpours. For years prior, highway officials insisted flashers were strictly for emergencies and use of them was illegal except when pulled over. The main concern is that hazards might look like brake lights, police lights or emergency vehicle lights, something that might confuse other drivers and cause potential danger. But lawmakers acknowledged hazards also allow motorists to better spot each other during severe weather that impacts visibility. Effective July 1st, drivers are allowed to use their hazards during heavy rain and dense fog.
This may help reduce the risk, but drivers are still expected to maintain constant vigilance and proper control of their vehicles. As a Fort Myers car accident lawyer can explain, the actions of all parties involved in accidents are viewed objectively, with the analysis centering on how their actions compare to what any other prudent driver in a similar situation would have done. Essentially, what do we expect of a prudent driver in the same situation? In a heavy rainstorm, one would expect drivers to slow down (or even pull over) and use extra caution.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips for driving in the rain:
- Drive slowly. It’s more difficult to control or stop a car when the road is wet. By increasing your following distance, you give yourself more time to safely react if the vehicles ahead of you slow down or stop. Keep in mind too that your vehicle is going to handle differently in the rain.
- Don’t try to brave rushing water. It reportedly takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most passenger cars. Two feet of water can carry away most trucks and sport utility vehicles. If the road is flooded – especially if there are barriers that block the road – don’t risk it. Turn around.
- Pay extra attention – especially watching for pedestrians and cyclists. These road users are already vulnerable, but especially in sudden downpour. When it’s hard to see, be extra cautious.
- Regularly perform vehicle maintenance and inspections. Many wrecks occur as a direct result of drivers who have bald tires and/or worn windshield wipers; these both reduce your visibility and your ability to reach in the event of a sudden change in roadway conditions.
- Wait for the storm to pass. In Florida, our weather tends to arrive quickly and often passes as quickly as it arrives. While we understand that people have places they need to be and don’t want to delay any plans, If you could wait in a safe location for a storm to pass your may be able to avoid it (or the worst of it) all together.
Anytime you head out, it’s not a bad idea to do a quick check of the weather report. During the rainy season in South Florida, you can almost guarantee there will be afternoon showers. If you can avoid driving during those times, you may reduce your risk of a crash and improve safety on local roads and highways. Also, keep your car stocked with an emergency roadside kit and a charged cell phone in case you need to call for help during inclement weather.
If you are involved in a South Florida crash, call our offices to speak to a dedicated Fort Myers car accident lawyer about your case.
If you are injured in Fort Myers, Port Charlotte, Sarasota, Cape Coral, Naples or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.
Driving in Severe Weather, NHTSA
More Blog Entries:
Speeding Driver Liability in South Florida Car Accident Lawsuits, Jan. 21, 2021, Fort Myers Car Accident Attorney Blog