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Physics Behind Why Driving in Sleet and Freezing Rain Can Be So Deadly

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 21-Feb-2017

Within minutes, sleet and freezing rain can create the most hazardous of driving conditions, often leading to expensive and even fatal vehicle accidents. Let’s look at the physics behind two dangers that can make driving in sleet or freezing rain a potentially deadly proposition.

Traction

Freezing rain occurs when precipitation falls as rain but freezes upon hitting the surface. Sleet consists of water pellets that have already frozen by the time they hit the ground. Both can significantly reduce the amount of traction your tires have on the road; in fact, only a few millimeters of ice accumulation on the road can cause your car to slip out of control. From a physics standpoint, friction is the force that helps your tires grip the road, but ice has almost zero friction qualities. Once a vehicle begins sliding on ice, regaining traction becomes very difficult or impossible until the car stops sliding or until the tires find something else to grip.

Visibility

Both freezing rain and sleet affect your ability to see while driving. Water is opaque in both liquid and solid forms. When liquid rain hits your windshield, your wiper blades clear the rain off so you can see. However, freezing rain or sleet can create a coating of ice on your windshield that your wiper blades can’t clear without some form of ice melt. Ice can also accumulate on the wiper blades, hindering their ability to clear the windshield properly.

For more information on driving safely in dangerous weather conditions, see our post on Safe Driving Tips for Extreme Winter Weather.

Call our Washington D.C. car accident attorneys to your options for compensation if you are injured in a vehicle accident.

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