The Ultimate Weather-Related Driving Guide

car traveling in rain
Posted: August 7, 2023

Scientists study the effects of water on driving because rain and wet pavement are some of the most dangerous weather conditions motorists face.  

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 21 percent of motor-vehicle crashes annually between 2007 and 2016 were attributable to weather. Wet pavement was a factor in 70 percent of these weather-related accidents and 15 percent of all accidents, while rain was a factor in 46 percent and 10 percent, respectively, according to the Federal Highway Administration.   

Over the same period, wet pavement annually contributed to 860,286 crashes, injuring more than 324,000 and killing more than 4,000, while rain contributed to 556,151 crashes, injuring more than 212,000 and killing almost 2,500.  


The dangers of hydroplaning  

One of the greater hazards of wet roads is hydroplaning, which turns cars into boats, setting them helplessly afloat. A hydroplaning vehicle has lost traction, causing its driver to lose control.  Hydroplaning is possible wherever roads hold standing water. Sometimes caused by design flaws in a highway, hydroplaning accidents tend to happen repeatedly in certain areas.   

The hydrodynamics of hydroplaning is little understood, even today, but researchers are working on it. A key area of focus is tire tread design. Tires are designed to displace water through the grooves in their tread, but that tread can displace only so much; sometimes conditions overwhelm even the best tire design. When there’s heavy rain, water standing in the road in front of a tire generates lift – enough to make the car lose contact with the pavement and leave the driver with reduced ability to brake or steer.  

This nasty turn of events may have something to do with how air bubbles and vortices forming in the water as it passes through the grooves of a tire’s tread cause aerodynamic lift.    

Precipitation compromises not only traction but also visibility. It also increases the potential for lane obstruction and affects vehicle performance, traffic-signal timing, speed-limit control, and coordination.  


Is anyone liable in a hydroplaning accident? Possibly.   

Drivers are responsible for maintaining their vehicles through routine upkeep. Tires are especially important for driving in inclement weather. Failing to replace worn tires, or needlessly driving over standing roadway water, could make the driver liable for any hydroplaning accident you may cause. In addition, drivers are required to drive in a reasonable manner, taking into account all circumstances – including inclement weather or less-than-ideal road conditions.  


Weather and the havoc it can wreak  

How water channels through tire tread is one of the many mysteries scientists examine in their ongoing quest to make drivers safe in bad weather.  

More people in the United States die of weather-related traffic accidents each year than die as a direct result of weather disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 1.2 million vehicle crashes annually are caused by the weather. As a result of those, almost 5,000 people die, and more than 418,000 are injured.  

After rain and wet pavement, other kinds of weather likely to cause traffic accidents include  

  • falling snow or sleet, which factor into 18 percent of weather-related crashes;  
  • snowy or slushy pavement, 16 percent;  
  • icy pavement, 13 percent; and  
  • fog, three percent.  


Even wind, or glare from the sun, on a clear-blue day, can pose a driving hazard.    


According to the New York State Commercial Driver’s Manual, strong winds can make it difficult for motorists to stay in their lane –particularly for lighter vehicles. This problem is particularly acute when coming out of tunnels.   

The Texas Department of Insurance offers safety tips for driving in high winds:  

  • Know the forecast. Weather service offices sometimes issue high-wind watches, warnings, or advisories for drivers, which can alert them of potentially windy conditions.  
  • Beware of high-profile vehicles. Large vehicles towing cargo can lose control or tip over in high winds.   
  • Keep your distance. As noted in the New York State Commercial Driver’s Manual, it is generally a good idea to avoid driving alongside others in windy conditions.
  • Keep both hands on the wheel. Heavy winds make it harder to steer and handle a vehicle, so keep a firm grip on the wheel. If you’re uncomfortable driving, pull over until the wind dies down. 
  • Slow. down. Depending on the situation and the severity of the high winds, driving slower than the posted speed limit can help lessen the dangers of wind and help you better control the vehicle.  

The bottom line is that New York motorists should drive in a safe manner based on all circumstances, especially when those circumstances involve windy conditions.  New York motorist should use their training and experience and follow the rules of the road, contained in the Vehicle and Traffic Law. 



Fog is one of the more dangerous weather phenomena because of the way it obstructs vision and distorts depth perception.   

The National Weather Service offers safety tips for motorists driving in the fog to consider:    


  • Slow down. Allow extra time to reach your destination. 
  • Make your car visible. Use your low-beam headlights so your taillights are on. Use fog lights if you have them.   
  • Don’t use your high-beams. High beams cause glare, which makes seeing what’s ahead of you difficult.   
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and the vehicle in front of you to account for sudden stops or changes in the traffic pattern. 
  • Follow the lines on the road with your eyes to stay in your lane. 

New York’s DMV explains that some vehicles have fog lights for use when fog affects roadway visibility. Such fog lights must be of a type approved by the Commissioner of DMV.   



The sun can seriously impair your vision and can even temporarily blind you. Glare is a contributing factor in some car accidents.  

Like other types of weather, bright sunlight can impair a motorist’s driving abilities. Sun glare can make seeing through the windshield difficult, obstructing the driver’s view of the road. One research study found that the risk of a life-threatening accident occurring was 16 percent higher during bright sunlight than in normal weather.    

Visibility is, of course, vital to safe driving. Drivers blinded by sun glare may fail to see other vehicles, traffic signs and signals, lane markings, objects, or even pedestrians. This can result in a devastating collision in a matter of seconds.    

In the event of an accident, glare does not absolve a driver of fault. No matter the weather, drivers are expected to take precautions to drive safely and avoid collisions. In the context of sun glare, that may entail lowering a sun visor or using sunglasses. It may even entail pulling over and waiting for the sun glare to end or subside.    

Being prepared for driving in bright sunlight can potentially reduce the risk of a sun glare-related accident. The American Automobile Association offers these tips for motorists when driving into the sun:    

  • Wear polarized sunglasses, which can help reduce glare.  
  • Use your sun visor.  
  • Leave more following room between you and the next vehicle.  
  • Drive with your headlights on to increase visibility.   
  • Keep your windshield clean.   

Sometimes the sun glare is so bad and so blinding that the only reasonable step is to pull over. If you were injured by someone who claims that their view of the road was obstructed by sun glare, an attorney can help you assess the facts of your case.    


Winter weather  

Winter weather is a fact of life in New York, and driving is often a necessity. Given the risks associated with driving in snow, ice, and sleet, motor vehicle accidents happen often in winter.   

In fact, an estimated 17 percent of motor vehicle crashes occur in wintry conditions. A winter-weather traffic accident can be devastating for all involved. Many victims suffer serious injuries that can turn their lives upside down.   

Those people should consider turning to an experienced winter driving-accident attorney.   

There are various risks of driving in winter weather that contribute to serious accidents on the road. These dangers include:   

  • Black ice: One of the more perilous winter-weather hazards is black ice. It’s transparent, often very hard to spot, and can cause a vehicle to swerve off the road into other objects.   
  • Low visibility: Precipitation such as rain, snow, or hail can make seeing difficult while driving. Heavy snow or blizzard-like conditions, and other factors such as fog, are especially dangerous to drivers. A motorist’s vision may become impaired in bad weather, increasing the risk of a potential motor vehicle crash.   
  • Fast braking: Quick and sudden driving decisions in winter weather can put you at risk on the roadways. Fast braking can cause a car to lose control on a slippery surface.   
  • Loss of traction: There are multiple ways that a vehicle can lose traction in winter weather conditions, including driving over ice, up an incline, or accelerating. A loss of traction is caused by friction between the road and a vehicle’s tires. It can also result in difficulty steering.   
  • Vehicle maintenance issues: Cold weather can damage a vehicle through corrosion (leading to rust) and freezing temperatures. Belts and hoses, batteries, brakes, fluids, and tire pressure can be affected by winter weather if they are not properly maintained.   


Call us if you have a weather-related accident  

If you’ve suffered serious injuries in a weather-related accident and suspect another party is at fault, contact William Mattar, P.C. Our car accident attorneys can take a look at your case and help you through the process of filing a claim. Call our offices today at 844-444-4444 to speak to an attorney experienced in hydroplaning accidents and other weather-related crashes.     

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