Weather conditions often impact drivers on the roadways in Alabama, and unfortunately, inclement weather often contributes to cause an increase in motor vehicle wrecks. Rain, wintery conditions, and even bright sun or high wind may contribute to collisions. It is important to note that every driver has a duty to use reasonable care at all times and in all conditions when operating a motor vehicle. As such, drivers must take weather conditions into consideration and respond in a safe manner. Using reasonable care in inclement weather may mean that a driver should travel at a speed less than the posted speed limit or should maintain a greater distance between vehicles. Actions that may be perfectly acceptable or legal under ideal weather conditions may become unacceptable due to weather-related hazards. When determining whether or not a driver was acting appropriately for the weather, the court may look at the kind of hazard posed by the weather, complicating factors such as traffic congestion and terrain, whether or not the driver knew to expect the adverse weather conditions, the type of vehicle driven, and the individual driver’s level of experience.
Under Alabama law, if a vehicle skids or slides on a roadway that is slippery because of ice or rain, the driver is not automatically responsible for a resulting collision. The mere fact that a vehicle slid on the roadway into another vehicle is not enough to find the driver at fault. The driver will only be held liable if there is proof that the driver acted unreasonably in light of the slippery conditions. This proof most often comes from evidence the driver was aware of hazardous conditions and traveled at a speed too fast for the conditions or traveled into an area that the driver knew or should have known was unsafe.
Lack of visibility due to weather conditions, such as rain, snow, fog, or even bright sunlight, can also serve to contribute to a collision. The fact that a driver was unable to see, however, is not necessarily a defense. Under Alabama law, drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicle safely for the visibility conditions, which may mean traveling below the posted speed limit, leaving a greater following distance, turning on their headlights, or even pulling off of the road and waiting until visibility improves. If a crash occurs, the excuse of “I couldn’t see them” due to the weather is not an automatic defense. Instead, it would be up to a judge and jury to determine whether or not the driver was acting reasonably in consideration of the weather.