When most people think of dangerous driving conditions, they think of snow and ice. When black ice and snow accumulate on roads, sliding becomes a problem and accidents become more likely.
But as it turns out, snow and ice aren’t the deadliest weather conditions for driving – rain is.
According to an analysis of federal data, rain causes more driving-related fatalities than snow in 39 of the 50 continental states.
Weather-related accidents kill about 7,000 Americans each year.
The report was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and covers all fatal car crashes between 2009 and 2013.
According to The Law Office of Kevin P. Justen, rainy conditions were involved in more than twice as many serious accidents as snow. More than 230,000 injuries and fatalities occur each year due to rain-related accidents.
But what makes rain so dangerous to drive in?
Vehicle control requires friction between the road and the vehicle’s tires. Rain creates a wet road, and it’s this wetness that reduces the friction between the tires and the road.
Rain can make roads particularly slick if it hasn’t rained in a while, as residue creates a slippery surface.
Along with reduced friction, rain can also impair visibility.
While rain was the deadliest driving weather in 39 states, snow topped the list in several other states, including: Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa.
North Dakota saw an equal number of rain- and snow-related fatal crashes.
In the far West and the South, fog was also a contributor to deadly crashes.
“It doesn’t take extreme conditions or intentional recklessness behind the wheel for tragedy to strike,” the report stated. “Scary as it sounds, the factors to blame for the worst outcomes on the road are pretty common.”
Rain is more common than snow or sleet, and it occurs throughout the year in all parts of the country. Drivers are more likely to be complacent when driving in this type of weather because, unlike snow, rain is a much more common occurance.
While concerning, the study does note that more people are killed in accidents related to speeding, reckless driving and drunken driving.
Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and Colorado have some of the highest rates of reckless driving-related accidents, according to another report.
Road rage-related accidents are a serious problem in South Carolina, Indiana, Delaware, Montana and Colorado.
According to that same report, driving on the wrong side of the road was a major cause of accidents in Kansas, West Virginia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
South Carolina, North Dakota and South Dakota were among the top states to have drunk driving-related accidents.
Fatalities tend to be lower in urban areas and Northeastern states. Experts speculate that this may be due to there being higher speed limits in rural areas. More pick-up trucks are on the roads in these areas. The larger size of these vehicles contributes to a greater risk of fatalities in an accident.
In areas with lower median incomes, drivers are less likely to have new vehicles equipped with crash-avoidance features. Newer-model vehicles often come with sensors that detect when vehicles are too close and employ the braking system to avoid a collision.