All drivers will encounter at least one roadway hazard in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, not all will be able to avoid them or escape collisions. In 2017, over 3,500 Californians lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. Road hazards can cause thousands of dollars in damages for victims and their families. Preventing accidents and injuries takes preparing for all possible roadway hazards that may lie ahead.
Bad traffic plagues drivers in metropolitan parts of California. Bumper-to-bumper traffic during commutes can lead to drivers only halfway paying attention to the road, taking advantage of slow speeds to check emails or send text messages. Distracted drivers and bad traffic can create an opportunity for collisions, especially rear-end accidents. Bad traffic can also contribute to road rage, weaving between vehicles, unsafe lane changes, and other roadway hazards.
Other drivers are some of the most common roadway hazards on California’s roads. A driver could present a hazard if he or she is not watching the road, obeying traffic rules, or following the speed limit. A reckless driver could be dangerous if he or she is speeding, driving under the influence, driving the wrong way, or running red lights. Drivers can look out for reckless drivers by constantly scanning the road ahead, and staying out of the way of drivers who are breaking the rules.
Substances on the road, such as rainwater, ice, sleet, snow, oil, and grease can present a risk of the vehicle sliding. The first few minutes of a storm are the most dangerous for drivers, as rainwater can mix with motor oil on the road and make it very slick. Hydroplaning could cause loss of control of the vehicle and related car accidents. Drivers can help prevent hydroplaning accidents by traveling slowly in bad weather, gently applying the brakes if the car starts to slide, and keeping the wheel in the same direction as the car is sliding (rather than jerking the steering wheel in the opposite direction).
An unsafe roadway could cause a car accident if it results in failures such as a tire blowout. Striking a bad pothole could burst a tire, potentially causing a rollover or other car accident. Uneven shoulders can pull at the tires of a vehicle, possibly forcing it off the road. Loose gravel, cracked asphalt, and fallen debris in the road can also present significant driving hazards. It is the city’s duty to adequately maintain the roads. If the city knew or should have known about a roadway hazard, yet did not fix the issue within a reasonable amount of time, the city could be liable for related damages.
Rural areas of California, as well as cities, can experience animals crossing the road. Opossums, raccoons, deer, and stray cats and dogs may run into the road without notice. A driver unprepared for animals crossing may yank the wheel to avoid a collision, veering off the road and crashing into barriers, trees, or other objects. Always scan the sides of the roads for animals, especially when driving through rural California. Maintain a safe speed and be ready to smoothly apply the brakes if you see an animal crossing.
Construction projects aim to improve the safety of California’s roads, but while they are active they can actually present road hazards. Workers and equipment too close to the road, flashing lights, traffic cones, confusing detours, unsafe roadways, and visual distractions can all contribute to construction zone car accidents. As a driver, beware of construction zones and drive extra cautiously through them. Always slow down for workers. Switch lanes to get as far away as possible from a construction zone or emergency vehicle.