Distracted Driver Accidents

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How Weather Conditions Affect Multi-Vehicle Pile-Ups 


Every year, countless lives are impacted by the devastating consequences of multi-vehicle pile-ups on our roads. Human error and infrastructure issues are often blamed, but one critical factor that gets overlooked is weather conditions. 

NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recently looked at multi-vehicle accidents and how much weather conditions cause them. A new study by Craft Law Firm dives deep into which weather conditions are the worst, and how much they really affect multi-vehicle pile-ups.

Important Points 

Be especially cautious in weather conditions that could reduce driver visibility or braking time like snow, rain, fog, hail, or strong winds. 

Graph: Fatal Crashes By Weather Conditions and Number of Vehicles Involved (2005-2021) 

Below is a graph showing the correlation between the number of cars and weather conditions when it comes to multi-vehicle pile-ups.

Graph showing the correlation between bad weather and multi-vehicle pile-ups

Conditions to Avoid

Per the graph above, you would ideally try to avoid every weather condition. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible, so let’s see which are the worst. Aside from avoiding driving in bad weather conditions, be sure to leave plenty of room between you and everyone else to hopefully not get caught in a large pile-up. 

We can see that rain doesn’t discriminate too badly between more than or less than 10 cars. Since this is probably the most common weather condition, it makes sense. Fewer accidents occur under blowing snow, smog, crosswinds, and sleet. Regular snow has a significantly higher rate of involving 10 more cars than less due to the roads becoming slip-and-slides after a while.   

Staying Safe In Bad Weather

Ideally, you would just stay home to avoid bad weather conditions. If that is not possible, be sure to check weather forecasts and look outside your window before heading out. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and avoid accidents:

  1. Get rid of any distractions like radio, phone or even conversations in the car. Your focus should be on the road and nothing else.
  2. Avoid using cruise control during crunchy weather. Be sure you are in full control of your vehiclåe and are aware of your surroundings.
  3. Accelerate and brake slowly. Keep a greater distance between you and other vehicles than usual.
  4. Don’t get overconfident in your all-wheel drive or snow tires. They can definitely help, but be sure to practice all other safety tips as well.
  5. In the case of dense fog, reduce your speed, keep your distance if you can see that far, use the right edge of the road as a guide, and either use low-beams or fog lights(never use high-beams)

Weather conditions like snow and rain can play a huge part in multi-vehicle pile-ups. Something to take note of is that snow especially likes to cause big pile-ups of over 10 vehicles. Rain is the second worst offender but causes an almost equal amount of accidents regardless of vehicle quantity. 

November through February is the worst time of the year for accidents, which directly correlates with winter conditions like snow and ice. If you have to drive in bad weather conditions, driving slower and leaving more distance between cars than usual can help offset the risks of driving during these times of the year. 



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