Hawaii attracts visitors year round because of its favorable temperatures and tropical breezes. But the islands certainly see some violent weather as well, often while conditions on the neighbor islands are still sunny and clear. High winds, heavy rains, and thunderstorms can strike without much warning. Some drivers in Hawaii drive too fast for the road conditions during bad weather and their careless behavior leads to serious accidents and injuries.
Severe weather affects driving by reducing visibility, making cars harder to handle, reducing pavement traction, and making vehicles less stable and maneuverable. High winds can topple trees, knock down power lines and make driving extremely dangerous, as a storm did in early January. The storm knocked out power to thousands of customers, ripped the roofs off 65 houses, and downed dozens of trees, forcing the closure of Kohala Mountain Road on the Big Island.
While Hawaii is located in the tropics, it has a number of different climate zones and varied weather. The mountains, which rise to 14,000 feet, significantly affect airflow and create great variety in climate from island to island. Some areas receive little rainfall and are relatively dry, while Hilo is the wettest city in the region.
Torrential rains are common in Hawaii, except in the high mountains. Hawaii’s heaviest rains occur during winter storms between October and April. Hazardous weather was blamed for five deaths and seven injuries in Hawaii in 2013, according to the National Weather Service.
Driving in adverse weather conditions can include the following conditions in Honolulu, HI:
|Rain – About 75 percent of weather related auto accidents occur on wet roads according to the Federal Highway Administration. Rain limits visibility, reduces tire traction of pavement, and may obstruct lanes of traffic when rainwater collects on the road. Standing water on pavement increases the risk of hydroplaning.|
|Flash Floods – Heavy rain can create hazardous standing water on roads, flash flooding, and flooded roadways. According to the National Weather Service, flash floods are the leading cause of weather related deaths in the state of Hawaii, exceeding deaths caused by high winds and cyclones. It’s important to avoid flooded roadways during flash floods.|
|High Winds – High winds are frequently overlooked as a driving danger that can cause accidents. Strong gusts can push a car outside its lane. They can also break tree limbs and topple trees. Falling trees and limbs are a serious danger during high winds. The strongest winds are often where they accelerate on down sloping terrain on the islands and can make steering a car difficult and hazardous.|
|Limited Visibility – Dense fog caused by moist air rising upward and encountering cold air can create dangerous driving conditions, particularly on mountain roads in Hawaii. Fog reduces the ability of drivers to see and can lead to rear end collisions when motorists slow down unexpectedly.|
|High Surf Conditions – High surf is the number one weather related cause of fatal accidents.|
Tips for Driving During Adverse Weather
It’s best to stay off the road if you can avoid it. It certainly safer to stay indoors during hazardous weather conditions. If you get caught in a storm, here are some tips:
- Slow down and allow more room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
- Drive in tracks of vehicle ahead. Driving on wet roads -particularly roads with standing water-can cause a vehicle to hydroplane and spin out of control.
- Allow more distance to stop. It takes longer to come to a stop on slick roads.
- Don’t use cruise control. Avoiding cruise control will give you more options to respond to a potential loss of traction by simply lifting your foot off the accelerator.
- Watch for objects blowing across the road and for downed power lines. If a line falls on your vehicle, stay inside your car. Be careful not to touch any part of the metal frame of the vehicle.
- Make your vehicle more visible by putting on your headlights.
- Replace worn windshield wipers. Inspect your wipers regularly and replace them when they are leaving streaks or no longer clearing the windshield in a single swipe.
If you are injured in a weather related accident caused by another driver, talk to a car accident lawyer about your legal options to receive compensation from the at fault driver’s insurance.
Source: NOAA: http://www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl/pages/weather_hazards_stats.pdf