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How Weather Impacts Pedestrian Crashes

Posted on March 13, 2023 in

As a pedestrian in Arizona, your safety is constantly at risk. It is an unfortunate reality that you cannot trust motor vehicle drivers to respect or obey the state’s traffic laws. However, motor vehicle drivers are not always entirely to blame for pedestrian collisions in Arizona. In some cases, bad weather increases the risk of pedestrian accidents and contributes to these tragedies.

What Conditions Put Pedestrians at Risk?

Many drivers are guilty of not paying attention to the road. Distracted driving is a rampant problem that was responsible for 3,142 deaths in 2020 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, driver inattention and other acts of negligence become even more dangerous in less-than-optimal driving conditions. Pedestrian accident risks are heightened in certain environmental conditions, including:

  • Low visibility
  • Heavy rain
  • Snow or ice
  • Thick fog or haze
  • Bright sunlight (reflections)
  • Wet, icy or slippery roads
  • Debris in the road or blocking sidewalks

Any environmental hazard or bad weather condition that interferes with a driver’s view of the road, pedestrian visibility or the state of the road surface could increase the risk of a pedestrian-vehicle collision. Even a driver that does everything right could be affected by bad weather, such as a puddle in the road causing a vehicle to hydroplane.

Pedestrian Accident Statistics in Dangerous Weather

The Federal Highway Administration warns all road users to stay home in dangerous weather conditions. It lists the potential operational impacts that different weather patterns can have on a motor vehicle. For example, high winds can reduce visibility distance due to blowing dust or snow, as well as cause potential lane obstructions. Precipitation can also limit visibility and affect pavement friction, making it more difficult to brake.

Statistics from the FHWA show that, based on 10-year averages, wet pavement causes 78 percent of weather-related injuries and 76 percent of deaths. Other dangerous road conditions in order of crash risk are rain, snow/sleet, icy pavement, snow/slushy pavement and fog. The FHWA states that over 301,100 injury accidents and almost 4,900 fatal accidents involve adverse weather conditions every year.

Statewide statistics for Arizona reported by the Department of Transportation showed that the majority of pedestrian collisions occurred in clear weather conditions. A total of 1,506 pedestrian accidents occurred in clear conditions in 2021, including 189 fatal collisions. This shows the risk to pedestrians in Arizona in any weather. However, 100 pedestrian accidents occurred when it was cloudy or overcast and 47 when it was raining. Pedestrian collisions were also reported in sleet/hail, snow and severe crosswinds.

How to Protect Yourself as a Pedestrian in Bad Weather

The best way to protect yourself from accident risks due to bad weather is to stay home when the forecast predicts a storm. Walking, jogging or running in poor weather increases the odds of a driver failing to see you or skidding out of control and hitting you. If you must go out in rain, snow or other dangerous conditions, optimize your visibility by wearing bright colors and reflective clothing, such as a vest. Bring a flashlight or headlamp. 

Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible and wait for drivers to come to a complete stop before crossing the road. Wait for a complete stop even if you have the right-of-way, as bad weather can make it more difficult for drivers to brake. If you get hit by a car in bad weather, the driver could still be held responsible for your injuries. Contact a personal injury attorney after this type of accident for legal advice.