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How radar data accurately links precipitation with car crash risk

In Missouri, rain and snow can put drivers in danger. Previous studies say the risk for a fatal motor vehicle accident can go up anywhere between 10 and 76 percent in precipitation, but a new study from North Carolina State University has come up with more accurate numbers.

This study uses radar data whereas past studies have had to rely on police reports and field observations to know if it was raining or snowing at the time of a crash. Researchers have found that heavy precipitation makes a fatal highway accident 246 percent more likely while light precipitation makes one 127 percent more likely.

Rural areas see more fatal precipitation-related crashes than urban areas, perhaps because drivers tend to speed in rural areas. Specifically, the Northern Rockies and Upper Midwest saw a high concentration of such crashes. Winter was the worst season for these crashes. In addition, morning rush hours see a spike in crash risk, yet evening rush hours do not.

The study comes at a crucial time. The National Climate Assessment in 2018 found that the annual precipitation in the U.S. has been increasing since 1900 and will most likely continue to increase. Heavy precipitation, in particular, is being seen more frequently. Adverse weather is also a factor that the developers of self-driving cars need to come to terms with.

Those who get in car accidents in bad weather might be able to recover damages through a third-party insurance claim. Missouri follows the rule of comparative negligence, so those who are partially to blame for a crash may still be eligible for compensation, but their degree of fault will reduce whatever amount they recover. This is where a lawyer may come in handy. Before negotiations, the lawyer might hire investigators to obtain proof of the defendant's negligence.

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