Dry roads are more dangerous than wet ones

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road accidentsI'm seldom keen on this time of year.  As the weather gets worse the situation for cyclists always seems to get more precarious.  It's rare now to cycle to and from work in daylight, so the reduction in visibility always seems to make things more precarious.  Add in the often inclement weather and it isn't really very nice riding the streets of London at the moment.  Nicer than riding public transport mind you, but still not all that enjoyable.

All of which makes a new piece of research from Perdue University interesting.  They wanted to test the demographics of road traffic accidents to see whether certain sections of society are more at risk in certain conditions.

What is interesting is that they found that men under the age of 45 were 21% more likely to suffer severe injury whilst driving on completely dry roads than they were on wet roads.  What's even more strange is that they're 72% more likely to crash than on snowy and icy roads.  The research team propose this is due to the increased care people apply when driving in poor conditions.

“Younger men may be tempering some of their aggressive driving behavior to compensate for the compromised roadway surface under adverse weather conditions,” Mannering says. “But they seem to let such behavior loose on dry roads and may be underestimating the severe crash risk in good weather conditions.”

Older drivers should beware the snow

The situation is much changed for older drivers however.  Motorists over 45 are 6 times more likely to crash on snowy or icy roads than they are on wet roads.  The researchers say this is a combination of overconfidence mixed with the often larger vehicles driven by older drivers and the false sense of security they bring.

Women drivers don't like the rain

For women by contrast, the most dangerous road condition is when it's raining.  They were 4 times more likely to crash on wet roads than on dry roads.  What's also interesting is that women under 45 were 3 times more likely to crash than those over 45.

“This suggests that women drivers, on average, significantly underestimate the risk of a severe crash on wet roads and do not compensate for reduced friction on slick, high-speed roads,” says Mannering.

“The data might be used to give women drivers a heads up that they have to be really careful on wet pavements, and the same for young men on dry roads, and older men on snow and ice,” Mannering says. “The best way to help prevent severe accidents is understanding the conditions under which they are most likely to occur.”

On a related note, the BBC published an interactive map showing all road deaths in Britain in the past decade recently.  So you can see all the road deaths in your region for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.  Unfortunately they don't provide the level of granularity to show the weather conditions at the time of the crash.  If the data from Indiana is any guide though I should look out for women drivers when the heavens open.

3 thoughts on “Dry roads are more dangerous than wet ones

  1. It certainly makes sense that people are more careful when conditions are not so good. Just goes to show though that most accidents are down to driver error rather than road conditions.

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