According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 450,000 injury crashes occur annually in adverse weather conditions or on slick pavement. The average driver already adjusts his or her driving patterns on a daily basis whether he or she realizes it or not. Chances are, if evening fog or an unexpected downpour prevents you from seeing the road ahead of you, you will know to slow down to a safe speed or pull over until conditions have improved.
A safe driver will slow down whenever visibility is diminished. This is even more important when visibility is coupled with reduced traction, such as in rainy or snowy weather. The Weather Channel has put together a helpful list of driving safety tips for staying safe when driving in various weather conditions. Depending on where you live, you may need to make seasonal adjustments like winterizing your car and practicing winter driving techniques on snowy or icy roads. Also remember that posted speed limits are intended for ideal conditions. You will need to adjust your speed to match the four following factors:
- Weather conditions,
- Road conditions,
- Visibility, and
Driving in adverse conditions is dangerous enough when you are sharing the road with other passenger vehicles. However, a simple fender bender with another passenger vehicle could produce much greater personal and property damage when the other vehicle involved is a commercial truck weighing more than 10,000 lbs. Even under ideal conditions with an alert and attentive driver, a commercial truck is going to be less maneuverable, require more time to stop, and collide with greater impact due to its weight. Commercial trucks also have large blind spots due to their size, and when you add inclement weather conditions into the mix, you should never assume that a truck driver can see your relatively small vehicle traveling alongside.
The most important thing to do in adverse road and/or weather conditions is to reduce your driving speed. The Large Truck Crash Causation Study (“LTCCS”) reported that 23% of large truck crashes occurred when commercial motor vehicle drivers were traveling too fast for conditions. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles found that excessive speed is a major cause of fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles, while higher speeds may increase the severity of crashes. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) has several tips for commercial truck drivers on topics like driving techniques, driver fatigue, distractions, following distance, evasive action, etc.
In adverse driving conditions, you should also observe the behavior of drivers around you. Avoid vehicles that are traveling too fast and cannot stop in time to avoid a collision. A rule of thumb that commercial truck drivers are supposed to follow in adverse road or weather conditions is the following:
- Reduce speed by 1/3 on wet roads (e.g., if the speed limit is 60 mph on dry pavement, then on wet roads, the truck should reduce its speed to 40 mph)
- Reduce speed by 1/2 or more on snow-packed roads (e.g., if the speed limit is 60 mph on dry pavement, then on a snow-packed road, the truck should reduce its speed to 30 mph or less)
While you may be able to safely travel faster in a passenger vehicle than these guidelines suggest, they may still be helpful in spotting commercial trucks that are driving too fast and posing a hazard to others on the road.