Liability for California Car Crashes in Smoky, Low Visibility Conditions

car driving in smoky conditionsIn recent years, California has experienced devastating wildfires that leave most of the state under a haze of smoke, creating low visibility conditions that can lead to car accidents

If you or a loved one are involved in an accident due to low visibility, you may be left wondering who may be liable. Call the Sacramento car accident lawyers today to discuss what legal options are available to you. An initial consultation is completely free and without obligation to hire us to represent you.

What Factors Affect Visibility

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 600 people are killed and over 16,300 are injured in accidents due to low visibility conditions. Wildfire smoke can be a cause of low visibility conditions when driving. Other factors that affect visibility include:

  • Heavy rain
  • Fog
  • Low light
  • Glare
  • Dust storms
  • Hail
  • Snowstorms
  • Sleet

Depending on the severity of these weather events or driving conditions, drivers must take extra precautions to avoid an accident. Safely operating a vehicle is ultimately the responsibility of the driver, regardless of bad weather or low visibility.  

Duty of Care Still Applies in Low-Visibility Conditions

Anticipating reduced visibility conditions can be difficult. Smoke density or weather systems can change while you are driving. In these cases, the fault for a car accident is determined by how the driver reacts to the change in conditions. For example, a driver should reduce his or her speed if it is raining and the roads are wet so he or she may have enough time to come to a full stop as needed.

A driver's license comes with responsibilities beyond obeying a stop sign or traffic lights. Traffic laws also require drivers to use reasonable caution to avoid harming anyone they encounter on the road, including taking appropriate precautions in driving conditions where visibility is low.

If you are rear-ended by a vehicle because you were driving slow in smoky conditions, the driver who hit you may be liable for negligence if he or she did not appropriately reduce their speed or followed too closely before the accident.

However, if you are involved in an accident because your car was not visible to another driver in conditions that require headlights, liability may shift to you.

Tips for Driving in Wildfire Smoke

When driving in any low-visibility conditions, it is important to be extra mindful of your surroundings and slow down if necessary. When driving in heavy rain, the best practice is to reduce your speed and turn on your headlights. Driving in wildfire smoke is no different.

Here are some tips for driving through a haze of smoke:

Slow Down

Speed reduction is usually the best practice for driving in any kind of low visibility condition because it gives you time to stop if the roadway suddenly gets obstructed by something.

Roll Up Your Windows

Keep your windows completely sealed and turn on the recirculate air option on your vehicle’s air conditioning system so that it keeps the smoky, outside air from coming inside.

Use Your Turn Signals

If visibility is reduced due to smoke, the drivers around you may not be able to see very well either. It is important that you use your turn signals in advance to show other drivers your intended maneuver. Avoid slamming on your breaks and driving outside of your lane.

Do Not Use Your Hazard Lights

In California, the use of hazard lights is only allowed if you are a part of a funeral procession or if your vehicle is immobile. For example, if you are involved in an accident and your car is in the middle of the road or if your car has broken down on the side of the road.

It is important to remember that hazard lights are meant to warn other drivers of an immediate hazard on the roadway. If smoke is decreasing visibility, another driver may get confused if he or she sees flashing hazard lights, which could lead to an accident.

Turn on Your Headlights

Even if the sun is still out, smoke may not allow other drivers to see your vehicle on the roadway. Be sure to turn on your headlights if you are driving in smoky conditions.

Call Today for a Free Consultation

Our attorneys at the Arnold Law Firm are prepared to review your situation during a free, no-obligation legal consultation. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for car accident victims.

We charge nothing upfront to retain our services and you do not owe us anything unless we recover compensation on your behalf.  

Give us a call at (916) 777-7777 to get started.