Weather-related crashes are a serious problem in Florida and throughout the U.S., proving more dangerous than even the worst natural disasters – combined.
The U.S. Department of Transportation reports an average of 5.9 million crashes occur every year in the U.S., and of those about 21 percent (or 1.2 million) are weather-related. Based on a decade of data, such collisions injure roughly 418,000 and kill about 5,300 annually (accounting for about 16 percent of all crash-related deaths). By comparison, about 380 people in the U.S. die every year due to flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat and lightning.Liability in a Weather-Related Crash
As our Fort Myers car accident attorneys at the Garvin Law Firm can explain, just because weather is a factor in a crash doesn’t mean no one is at-fault. That’s because drivers have a legal duty to use reasonable care in consideration of the weather conditions. For example, F.S. 316.183 is the Florida law regarding speeding. Although the statute outlines speed limits for certain types of roads, it also stipulates, “No one shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards existing… Speed (must) be controlled as necessary to avoid a collision…” in compliance with not just legal speed limits but also the common law duty to use reasonable care.
In other words, if the highway speed limit is 70 mph, but pouring rain slashes driver visibility to just a few feet ahead, motorists have a responsibility to slow down – or even pull over if necessary. Special caution is urged by statute when crossing an intersection, going around a curve, approaching a hill crest or while traveling on a narrow or winding road.Common Weather-Related Factors in Fort Myers Car Accidents
The good news for those of us here in South Florida is we aren’t grappling with the treacherous snow, slush and ice common in Northern regions during the winter months. Some of the weather-related hazards drivers do confront in this region include:
Rain and Floods - Dangers include pavement that is slick, sopping or completely flooded on a regular basis during South Florida’s rainy season. The sheets of rain that pour in a South Florida thunderstorm can reduce visibility substantially, to the point motorists can hardly see anything at all. Lane submersion restricts access to certain roads and can be very dangerous if a motorist is caught in flooding by surprise. The DOT estimates most weather-related crashes – not just in Florida, but across the country – occur on wet pavement caused by rain or during rainfall. This is partially because more states commonly get rain than snow, but even in states like Alaska, rain was more frequently a factor in crashes.
Fog and Smoke - These conditions can severely restrict motorists’ visibility and heighten the crash risk. The National Weather Service reports the main period for fog formation in South Florida is late fall to early spring, typically over the Everglades and along the southwest coast. Smoke, meanwhile, is usually produced by wildfires and controlled burns for agricultural and land management purposes, mostly in the drier months between November and May. Car accident attorneys in Fort Myers know this is especially dangerous when the fog or smoke appear suddenly, taking motorists by surprise. This has been cited in numerous Florida wrecks, including the deadly 70-car pileup on Interstate 4 in 2008, where zero visibility conditions consumed the highway in a matter of minutes, without warning.
Wind Speed - The Florida Department of Transportation unveiled a wind alert system a few years ago that monitors safety on local bridges amid high winds, disseminating potentially dangerous wind conditions for drivers.
Snow and Ice - Okay, this one isn’t common in Florida, especially South Florida. However, the fact that it doesn’t happen all that much can make it that much more dangerous when it catches drivers by surprise. Freezing rain can occasionally cause slick roads, particularly in northern and central parts of the state. Further, bridges and other elevated roadways can cool more quickly than pavement with ground underneath, meaning they may be more prone to frost or icy conditions than other road surfaces.
Pedestrians too are at high risk of injury in weather-related crashes because of reduced visibility, particularly in Florida, which consistently has held the record for most pedestrian accidents nationally.
If you are injured in a weather-related crash in South Florida, our Fort Myers car accident attorneys can help explain your legal options.Contact Our Fort Myers Car Accident Lawyers
Call or email the Garvin Law Firm today for your free consultation and we will evaluate your Fort Myers car accident and determine the appropriate course of action. We have been handling Lee County injury cases in Florida for over 30 years.