While it is our climate that often attracts visitors to our region and leads people to move to the Florida panhandle, recent days have served as a reminder that our weather can turn nasty. On average, Bay County reports 64 inches of rain a year, well above the nationwide average of 37 inches. While the amount of precipitation is well above average, the number of precipitation days is 107, not much more than the national average of 100. These numbers suggest that we see more days with heavy rain conditions than other areas of the U.S.
With Hurricane Debby impacting our state, it is not surprising to find that weather has been a factor in the traffic death of at least one local resident. Hailing from Bay County, Allison and Andrew MacLean, both age 26, were travelling back to Lynn Haven after a weekend visit to Palm Coast. Police suggest that Andrew MacLean may have been travelling too fast for the rainy conditions as he drove the couple's 2005 Toyota pickup on Interstate 10. He appears to have lost control of the pickup, which rolled and then struck a tree. Although he was taken to Madison County Hospital, Andrew MacLean died of his injuries. Allison MacLean was transported to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with serious injuries. The News Herald's report also noted that Allison is about seven months pregnant. An interview with someone close to the couple said she is doing okay and is expected to survive.
People who would exercise extreme caution when driving in snowy or icy conditions, often don't think twice about driving in the rain. However, rainy weather requires special precautions to help drivers avoid car crashes in Panama City or elsewhere. Before setting out when rain is present or forecasted, it is even more important than normal to make sure your tires are in good shape and have adequate tread depth since bald tires can increase the risk of hydroplaning. Wipers are, of course, important equipment for rainy conditions. They should be replaced at least once a year, especially if you notice they aren't clearing water well or are leading to a distorted view.
Sometimes the most dangerous conditions exist when rain is just beginning after a long dry spell. These conditions can lead to slick conditions as rain mixes with engine oil and grease that build up on roads during dry periods. Turn on your lights when driving in rain, even if it is still light out. Brake earlier than usual, and apply less force to increase the stopping distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you while also alerting the driver behind you that you are reducing your speed. Do not use cruise control because it can cause your vehicle to accelerate if you hydroplane and generally reduces driver attentiveness. Do not try to drive through a flooded roadway, especially if you cannot see the road through the water. Turn on defoggers to help prevent window fog, and use AC if you have it.
If, despite other precautions, you begin to hydroplane, do not turn the wheel or brake suddenly to help avoid a skid. Slowly release the gas pedal and steer straight until you regain traction and, if you must brake, only tap the brake pedal unless you have anti-lock brakes, in which case you can press more normally. If you begin to skid despite driving slowly and steering with care, carefully steer your car in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to travel (aka "steering into the skid").
Rainy weather may make driving more difficult, but it does not relieve drivers of their responsibilities behind the wheel. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident caused by another driver's negligence, regardless of weather, you may be entitled to compensation. Call our Panama City car accident lawyer to arrange a free consultation and discuss whether you may have a claim for damages.