When driving around, we rarely consider thunderstorms as a risk factor for car accidents, but accidents do occur when summer thunderstorms roll in. Each year, about 212 people are killed in thunderstorms and many more suffer from serious injuries. Some of these injuries are a result of direct lighting strikes or flooding, but some are attributed to car accidents related to the storms.
One of the biggest problems with thunderstorms is that they can very quickly affect your visibility. When a thunderstorm comes, it can quickly create dark skies, so it is important to turn on your headlights at the first sign of darkness. However, blinding rain can be an even bigger problem. Many drivers do not pull over in heavy rain, but very heavy rain can make it impossible for you to see pedestrians, bicyclists, and even other cars – making the possibility of a pedestrian accident or car accident far more likely.
Another major risk factor with storms is lighting. Although your car is actually one of the safer places for you to be in the event of a thunderstorm, a strike of lighting may still strike your car. If it does, you will likely remain safe but you could temporarily lose control of your car, putting you at risk of an accident. You do not even have to be that close for lighting to strike; lighting can strike up to 10 miles from a rainfall area.
Flash flooding is another major risk during a thunderstorm. Heavy rains can cause dry creeks or rivers to suddenly overflow or can cause flooding on roads when sewers cannot handle the excess water. This can cause your brakes to malfunction or can cause your car to hydroplane. Flash floods can also cause mudslides and other serious hazards for the driver.
Distraction is another concern for drivers during a thunderstorm. Drivers may be anxious about the storm and may end up watching the skies more than the roads, which can lead to truck accidents, car accidents, and other types of collisions. The more severe the weather, the more likely drivers are to focus on the weather rather than on adjusting their driving for the weather conditions.
String winds can cause power lines, trees, and branches to suddenly fall into the road, creating multiple car collisions, damage to cars, and sudden obstacles. Drivers need to slow down and be prepared for the unexpected in a storm. If a storm has hurricane-strength winds, the car itself may be buffeted about or simply swept up in the storm.
Thunderstorms can also cause poor road conditions, which can be a danger to drivers. Excessive water can make the roads slippery. In some cases, thunderstorms come with hail or freezing rain, which can make the streets even more icy and treacherous.
The best solution during a thunderstorm is to monitor weather conditions carefully. If possible, avoid driving during or just before a thunderstorm, so that you are not trapped in your car during extreme weather. Before driving anywhere this summer, make sure that you have a roadside emergency kit in your car in case you are trapped in your car. If you must travel in bad weather or if you get caught in bad weather, listen to your car radio for weather updates. Try to pull over or stop over somewhere if the reports seem ominous. If the weather gets worse, pull over to the side of the road and seek shelter rather than attempting to drive through the storm.