Surge in Car Crashes at Ferndale I-5 Off-Ramp Despite Improved Signage
Three single-vehicle crashes and a rollover accident on the curved off-ramp for northbound I-5 at Main Street in Ferndale happened in December 2018 and on January 1, 2019. According to Washington State Patrol (WSP), their troopers were called to assist in six crashes at that location over the course of 2018 until the surge of crashes began in December. Better signage had already been added in summer 2018 but that wasn’t enough to prevent the bump in crashes. The causes of the accidents were one for driving under the influence and three for driving too fast for conditions. None of the crashes resulted in medical treatment for injuries.
Poor road conditions affect car crash rates
According to NHTSA data, between 2004 and 2013, 16 percent of fatal crashes and 19 percent of injury crashes occur during bad weather road conditions. These crashes account for almost 5,300 deaths and more than 315,000 injuries each year.
- The vast majority (73 percent) of weather-related crashes occur on wet pavement, 46 percent of these during the actual rainfall.
- 17 percent of weather-related crashes occur while it is snowing or sleeting.
- 13 percent of weather-related crashes occur on icy pavement.
- 14 percent of weather-related crashes occur on snowy or slushy pavement.
- 3 percent of weather-related crashes occur during the presence of fog.
WA State rainy weather-related driving laws
Each state has its own laws for speed limits and headlights when a driver is in rainy weather conditions. In the case of Washington State, there is some ambiguity and room for interpretation in both the laws about headlights and speed limits during rainy weather conditions.
According to RCW 46.37.020, “every vehicle upon a highway” at “half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise” must have their headlights turned on. The law is not as clear when it comes to usage in rainy weather conditions, simply stating that headlights may be required at “any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions” exist. In other words, it is up to the discretion of the police officer whether a motorist broke the law by failing to activate their headlights during rainfall. Regardless, it is a safety measure to activate headlights during periods of decreased visibility such as during a rainfall.
In regard to speed limits, RCW 46.61.400 states that “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.” Here again, there is ambiguity in the law. A police officer may ticket a driver who he deems is driving too fast to safely navigate their vehicle during rainy weather conditions. Many rainy weather car accidents could be prevented if drivers simply slowed down below the posted maximum speed limit.
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