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Weather-Related Car Accidents Cause Many Deaths

While thunderstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes get the most attention from the media, car accidents caused by bad weather conditions are the biggest killer in the United States. According to some data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 7,000 people lose their lives each year in weather-related wrecks on American highways.

Weather-related accidents are defined to be those that occur during rain, snow, fog or any other weather conditions that can reduce visibility or make the roads slippery. Despite the big number of people who die on the road due to weather, such accidents don’t get enough media attention because most of these deaths are at a rate of one or two per accident. The media focuses on major disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes where many people are hurt and to have one or two people dying just doesn’t make news.

The number of deaths from weather-related accidents is not included in the in the National Weather Service's toll of annual deaths caused by weather and there is no awareness of how bigger an issue this is. The reason for this, according to weather service spokesman Chris Vaccaro, is that the weather event has to be an active agent in the injury. For example, if heavy snow falls from a tree and kills someone, that would be considered as snow killing the person. But if someone had an accident due to a slippery road, this accident will not be considered a weather-related because it would be perceived that the driver wasn’t careful enough.

Currently NCAR is working on a development of a system called "Vehicle Data Translator," which would provide people with current information on road and weather conditions. This data will be shared among drivers and allow them to be informed about potential risks on the roads.

We can only hope that this data-sharing system would help reducing the weather-related accidents and fatalities.

April 5, 2013

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