Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP

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Radar analysis measures precipitation risk for car crashes

Researchers have used radar data to determine how precipitation can affect the risk for fatal highway crashes. California residents should know that the results of this study are more precise than those of previous studies, which would rely on police reports or field observations to determine if there was precipitation at the time of a crash.

The high-resolution data was culled from 130 weather radars across the continental United States after researchers had divided the area into 25 million quadrants and entered the location of 125,012 fatal car crashes that occurred between 2006 and 2011. This data accurately reveals the density of precipitation and its location down to a few hundred meters.

Compared to previous studies, which said that precipitation increases the risk for a fatal crash by 10 to 76 percent, North Carolina State University researchers found that heavy precipitation or snow raises the risk by 246 percent. Light precipitation raises it by 127 percent. The Upper Midwest and Northern Rockies had the highest risk for precipitation-related fatal crashes.

Rural areas have a higher risk in bad weather than urban areas, possibly because drivers are more likely to speed in rural areas. The morning rush hour is the most dangerous time while the evening rush hour poses relatively little risk in bad weather.

Those who are injured in a car accident may be left with medical expenses, vehicle damage, lost wages and pain and suffering. However, if they discover that the other driver was negligent, they may be able to file a claim. Drivers cannot blame bad weather for their negligence; still, victims will likely face opposition from defendants' auto insurance companies, so they may want to hire a lawyer. The lawyer may handle all negotiations and litigate as a last resort.

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