This week, showers, strong winds and even lightning surprised much of the Bay Area. While storms and high wind knock out power and blow down trees, the year's first rain also wreaks havoc on the roads.
Roads are most slippery when it rains after a dry spell because oil and dirt haven't washed away. Your tires don't grip as well on oil-slicked roads, so slow down when the first rain hits. California's Department of Motor Vehicles recommends driving five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet roads.
When it starts to rain on a warm day, like it did this week, DMV says pavement gets very slippery the first few minutes. Heat causes oil to come to the surface, which makes the road slippery until the rain washes it away.
A study by a UC Berkeley researcher supports this theory. In an analysis of more than one million fatal crashes in 48 states, post-doctoral researcher Daniel Eisenberg found that the more is snowed or rained in a month, the fewer deadly accidents occurred. In any given month, an additional 10 centimeters of rain was linked to a 3.7 percent decrease in the fatal crash rate.
Eisenberg also found the accident risk increases with the length of the dry spell preceding it. The rain we saw this week, after a long dry spell and a heat wave, was especially dangerous.
Driving in high winds
As anyone who's driven over the Bay Bridge on a windy day can attest, high winds can be a hazard to all drivers, especially those driving large trucks, RVs, and vehicles with trailers. When wind blows especially strong and gusty, practice the following safe driving tips:
Reduce speed. When you slow down, you have better control of your vehicle and you'll have more time to react in a dangerous situation.
Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel. If you're not holding the wheel properly, a strong gust can jerk the wheel from your hand, causing you to lose control.
Stay alert. Look ahead and watch for debris or litter on the road. Also watch for debris that may get blown onto the road.
Don't use cruise control. You'll need full control of the gas pedal when a gust of wind occurs.
Be proactive. Take public transportation. If you're driving in the middle of an especially severe storm, pull over and take a break.
When surprise showers hit, slow down and stay hyper-alert on bridges. If you do get into an accident and sustain injuries, get medical attention and call a personal injury lawyer right away.
Photo courtesy of Flickr