Radar data finds precipitation raises risk for fatal crashes

West Virginia residents know that precipitation brings with it certain challenges when driving. Previous studies concluded that precipitation can raise the risk for fatal car crashes by anywhere between 10 and 76 percent. Now, researchers at the North Carolina State University have come up with even more accurate, and more startling, data.

This data was culled from 130 weather radars across the continental United States. Researchers broke up the area into 25 million quadrants and entered the locations of 125,012 fatal car crashes that had occurred in the U.S. between 2006 and 2011. In this way, researchers could discover, more accurately than any police report or field observation could, the location of precipitation and its density at the time of a crash.

The study found that the risk for a fatal highway crash goes up 246 percent in heavy rain or snow and 127 percent in light precipitation. The morning rush hour sees the greatest spike in crash risk although the evening rush hour did not register similar results.

Rural areas see more precipitation-related fatal crashes than urban areas. Researchers believe this is because drivers tend to speed more in rural regions. The Upper Midwest and Northern Rockies had the highest risk, location-wise, for fatal accidents. Winter was found to be the worst season for these accidents.

Those who engage in negligent driving, whether they speed, drive distracted or drive drowsy, cannot blame any accidents they cause on the weather. Victims, for their part, may want a lawyer to help them decide if they should file a claim. If they are eligible to recover damages and they choose to file, the lawyer may hire investigators to look into the accident, including weather and road conditions. Third parties might even reconstruct the crash if necessary. The lawyer may then begin settlement negotiations.

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