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Driving in San Diego Winter Storms

The McClellan Law Firm


2016 has brought with it something Californians have both feared and desperately needed for years—the El Niño weather pattern. This year’s El Niño is also the largest in a decade, estimated to bring more rainfall than winter 1997’s series of record-breaking storms. While we have suffered in the grip of a powerful drought and long wished for rainfall relief, El Niño has the potential to cause more than a $1 billion in property damage, partially due to car crashes that result from limited visibility and wet pavement.

After all, of the 5.8 million car crashes that occur annually, more than 20% are weather-related. Fog, rain, snow, and ice cause drivers millions in medical costs and property damage every year. And the leading cause of injury is more insidious than you might think—wet pavement is responsible for more traffic fatalities than all other types of weather combined, comprising 80% of all crashes caused by poor weather.

Californians are used to driving in good weather and can forget how to drive in wet—and especially snowy—conditions. This means that car accidents are more common during poor weather conditions. This National Weather Service has asked drivers to take precautions, especially if driving in the mountains.

Here are some reminders to help you stay safe while driving in the rain or snow:

  • In the rain, slow down. Even driving the speed limit can cause you to hydroplane and not stop in time.
  • Turning corners and braking will be more difficult in rain and snow. Put plenty of distance between you and the car in front of you and slow down before each turn.
  • Stay off the freeways whenever possible.
  • Carry a weather kit with you, including materials to keep you warm should your car stall.
  • If you are driving in the mountains, you may be required to put snow chains / tires on your tires.
  • Be on the lookout for black ice at busy intersections on bridges or on causeways. Watch the cars in front of you and pay attention to how your wheels are moving on the road, especially if there has been freezing rain or fog.

Record Rainfall—with More to Come

January has already been a powerful month for Southern California. We have received 109% of our average amount of rainfall this month, and it isn’t over. According to NASA climate researchers at Jet Propulsion Laboratories, El Niño is likely to strike San Diego with its heaviest rainfall in February or March. These are not run-of-the-mill storms—the city of San Diego is gearing itself up for flooding and severe weather through various measures, including monthly storm drain maintenance.

The McClellan Law Firm urges drivers to be careful, remain safe, and do not underestimate the power of our winter storms. We may enjoy sunny weather and perfect driving conditions 90% of the year, but that does not make the other 10% any less dangerous. We need to understand El Niño for what it is—a formidable storm pattern that can severely affect our lives if we are not reasonably cautious.

If you are involved in an accident, make sure to pull into a safe location before taking down insurance information, etc. Pile-up accidents are common in both rainy and snowy weather. Then, contact the police, get medical help and seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer.