HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 5, 2007, Herald Journal

Don’t blame the weather


Many people are living in a fantasy world, and my colleagues in the media are helping to preserve their delusions.

It drives me absolutely batty when I hear reports that claim “the weather caused an accident.”

Weather does not cause accidents, morons do.

To be fair, perhaps we should expand that statement to include inexperienced drivers, distracted drivers, and extremely arrogant drivers.

According to Merriam-Webster, an accident is an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.

Based upon this definition, some accidents really are caused by the weather.

If a car is parked in a driveway, and a storm blows a tree down on top of it, this situation is unplanned, and a reasonable person probably would not foresee it.

It is something entirely different when several hundred “accidents” occur in a single day in the metro area.

The weather may be a contributing factor, but it is certainly not the cause of all of these accidents.

The cause often involves people driving too fast for existing conditions.

Some people seem convinced that they need to drive at the posted speed limit (or faster) no matter what the road conditions are, and this just doesn’t make sense.

When there is snow or ice on the road, one simply does not have the same control as one does on dry pavement.

This may not be a problem if one is driving in a straight line, but when one has to execute turns or evasive maneuvers, unpleasant things can happen.

The situation is compounded by the fact that people seem bent on following much too closely.

Perhaps they think that by driving six inches from the bumper of the vehicle in front of them, they will reach their destination sooner.

In reality, what often happens is that people who are driving responsibly get involved in accidents when they get tangled up with these road hogs.

One can maintain a safe distance from the car in front, but, unless one is lucky enough to own a James Bond car, it is difficult to defend against those drivers who seem bent on riding in one’s back seat.

It is also amazing how often we hear about people running into snowplows.

A plow truck carrying a load of salt and sand is a fairly imposing target, and a prudent person will maintain a safe and respectful distance, but some people just don’t get it.

With their bright colors and strobe lights, it is pretty tough to not notice the plows on the road, but they are apparently invisible to some people.

Some drivers demonstrate extreme arrogance and seem to think that they can drive like maniacs without regard to weather conditions or other drivers, and, unfortunately, other people end up paying the cost.

Among those who demonstrate this kind of arrogance are some who drive giant four-wheel drive behemoths.

There is no doubt that these vehicles provide more control in a wide variety of conditions than other vehicles.

But, no matter how much money one spends on a vehicle, or how huge it is, no one has yet figured out a way to beat physics.

Momentum is the product of mass and velocity.

There is nothing in that equation about four-wheel drive, and stopping a vehicle on a slippery surface takes time.

The fact that a vehicle is equipped with four-wheel drive does not mean it can defy the laws of physics.

People who ignore these laws take the situation out of the realm of “accidents.” The incidents they cause are often both foreseeable and preventable.

Blaming accidents on the weather is not limited to snow or ice. We hear the same excuses if there is the slightest hint of rain or fog.

When I hear a report that “the rain caused a rollover accident,” I don’t buy it.

Causing an ordinary vehicle to roll over is not all that easy to do. Most are designed to keep the wheels between the driver and the pavement, so to roll one over requires a determined effort.

It may be the result of driver action or inaction, but it is not the result of the pavement being wet.

The usual range of stupid things people do when they get behind the wheel is magnified when road conditions are bad.

One might get away with distracted driving under ideal conditions, but when conditions deteriorate, driving requires even more attention.

Blaming accidents on the weather is just one example of a trend that is prevalent in our society.

People will rationalize anything to avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions.

Anything bad that happens is blamed on someone (or something) else.

It is time to stop kidding ourselves and place the blame where it belongs.

When we look at traffic accidents, and try to find the cause, we need to remember one thing – it is not the weather.