Can Environmental Factors Cause Car Accidents?

Even the most careful driver could fall victim to an unsafe roadway or dangerous weather condition. Environmental factors can have a major impact on traffic safety, resulting in serious and even fatal car accidents. If you were recently injured in an environment-related car accident in Vancouver, find out if you are eligible for financial compensation by consulting with an attorney.

Environmental Factors and Road Safety Statistics

Motor vehicles are built to withstand many different conditions, but that does not mean they are impervious to a dangerous environment. If the road the vehicle is traveling on is in a state of disrepair and contains hazards, for example, the vehicle may be unable to properly navigate or remain on the road. Weather can also be a significant crash risk. According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 1,235,000 vehicle crashes each year are weather-related. This represents 21 percent of all motor vehicle accidents.

Most Dangerous Environments for Drivers

Drivers are often at the mercy of environmental conditions. Statistically, the most dangerous environmental conditions or weather events for drivers are wet roads, rainfall and winter conditions (snow, sleet, ice, slush, etc.). However, many different environmental factors can increase the risk of a car accident, such as:

  • Storms: weather events that bring rain, snow, ice, sleet or hail can create highly dangerous conditions for drivers. Heavy rain can lead to standing water and hydroplaning accidents, while winter storms can lead to icy roads and invisible black ice. In addition, bad storms can reduce a driver’s visibility and increase the risk of rear-end collisions.
  • Fog: on a foggy or misty day, a driver may suffer from poor visibility that interferes with his or her ability to avoid crash risks, such as a crossing pedestrian or stopped driver. In addition, fog can reduce traffic speed and lead to dangerous road congestion. Fog is responsible for about three percent of car accidents each year.
  • Wind: high winds can lead to a vehicle imbalance that causes a car accident. This is especially true of tall vehicles with higher centers of gravity, such as SUVs. Wind can also blow debris into the road, such as fallen tree limbs, or cause a loss of visibility due to blowing dust or snow.
  • Encroaching objects or animals: if the environment is encroaching on the roadway, this can lead to accident and injury risks. For example, a bush can grow large enough to obscure a street sign or a tree could fall down into the road. Crossing animals are also a significant car accident risk.

The Pacific Northwest is known for having cold, wet winters that are long and generally overcast. These conditions can contribute to wintertime car accidents in Vancouver and the surrounding area by making the roads slippery and affecting visibility. However, even in seemingly pleasant conditions, the sun can create a risk by causing a glare.

Who Is Liable for an Accident Caused by Environmental Factors?

If your car insurance company investigates your accident and determines that it was caused by an environmental condition or “act of god,” you must have comprehensive insurance to pay for any property damage caused. If there is evidence that the city or state should have done something to prevent or remedy the environmental factor before your crash, however, you may have grounds to file a claim against the government. If a tree obscured a stop sign for months prior to your crash, for example, this could be proof of the city’s negligent failure to maintain a safe roadway. Contact a Vancouver car accident attorney at NW Injury Law Center for more information about a crash caused by environmental factors.

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