The Duty to Avoid Weather-Related Car Accidents

The weather in Missouri is known to be somewhat punishing because of its humid, subtropical climate. The state’s location in the interior of the United States causes it to experience extreme temperatures. Missouri summers are long, hot, and humid while its winters are bitterly cold as some parts of the state experiences snowfall. As a result, Missouri road conditions can vary wildly, substantially increasing the risk of traffic accidents. This blog examines the legal implications regarding weather-related car accidents and a driver’s duty to avoid them.

Missouri Traffic Regulations and Weather Conditions

Under Section 304.012 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes, “every person operating a motor vehicle on the roads and highways of this state shall drive the vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed so as not to endanger the property of another or the life or limb of any person and shall exercise the highest degree of care.”

Therefore, Section 304.012 establishes the standard of care drivers must exercise to avoid negligence liability in Missouri. Significantly, the statute does not impose a specific speed limit on drivers. This provision was intentionally crafted with the understanding that weather conditions can impact what constitutes safe driving speeds and maneuvers. As a result, a driver’s general duty to avoid negligence is a liquid concept that depends on the circumstances of each case.

Road Surface Conditions

Weather can change road surface conditions, consequently shifting what speeds will qualify as safe or not. After all, 50 mph is probably a safe speed for a car on a dry road. However, 50 mph a would not be a safe car speed on a wet or icy road. For the most part, precipitation in all its forms has a tendency to lower the speed at which drivers can safely operate their vehicles. When rain, snow, or ice covers the surface of a road, it decreases its coefficient of friction.

Friction – the force of resistance a surface exerts against a moving object – is essential for proper driving. A car cannot properly accelerate, decelerate or turn on a surface that has low friction. Rainy, icy, and snowy weather reduces the friction of a road by creating a thin layer of water between the road’s surface and a car’s tires.

Therefore, rainfall, snowfall, and ice require cars to drive slowly and avoid making sudden maneuvers. Drivers should keep in mind that higher speeds and abrupt steering behavior can throw a car out of control. Moreover, wet road surfaces cause deceleration and stopping to take more time. That means cars in low friction surface conditions will cover more distance before stopping.

Low Road Visibility

Weather can impact more than just road surface conditions. For example, fog can significantly reduce visibility such that a driver might only see objects within 50 feet from the front of their car while obscuring everything beyond 50 feet. Driving at even 30 mph probably wouldn’t be safe because, at that speed, a vehicle takes just a little more than one second to travel 50 feet.

The average driver has a reaction time somewhere between 3/4ths of a second to about two seconds. Furthermore, a car can still travel 75 feet after brake application. Thus, in situations involving heavy fog, a driver might have a little over one second to avoid colliding with an unexpected road obstacle, such as debris or people.

Therefore, drivers should take care to avoid driving in weather that significantly obscures road visibility. Drivers should remain alert for weather forecasts predicting heavy rain, snow, fog, or dust storms as all of those conditions can severely impair a driver’s ability to see the road.

Injured by a Weather-Related Accident? Call DiPasquale Moore for Advice

Weather conditions may be an unpredictable force of nature, but that doesn’t mean weather-related accidents are. For the most part, drivers can – and are legally obligated to – adjust their driving behavior according to weather conditions. Failure to do so can lead to a car accident for which they may be held liable. At DiPasquale Moore, our legal team has a sophisticated understanding of Missouri law to ensure negligent drivers are held responsible for the injuries they inflict on others. Our firm also handles cases throughout Kansas, where weather conditions can be just as punishing, so please be sure to always drive with precautions.

To arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers – whether you’re in Missouri or Kansas, call DiPasquale Moore at (888) 743-1030 or contact us online today for a free consultation.
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