Climate-related car accidents are those in which inclement weather, including rain, drizzle, snow, fog, smog, smoke, sleet, dust, crosswinds, blowing sand/dirt, cloudy weather, or blowing snow, are listed as a cause on the crash report.
And a study from
Jerry’sData Journalism Team, analyzing crash data from the NHTSA, shows that climate-related motor vehicle crashes have almost doubled in the last 15 years.
While population certainly plays a part, there is another reason why drivers in these three states are at greatest risk from climate change: They all have large coastlines, which means residents are on the frontline in the battle against global warming.
Why are California, Florida, and Texas most impacted by climate change?
Generally speaking, states with large, heavily populated coastlines are especially sensitive to the impacts of climate change.
In both Florida and Texas, temperatures have increased by more than one degree Fahrenheit during the last 100 years. While this might not sound like much, warming oceans provide storms with more energy, and this has led to an increasing number of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Florida’s ocean is rising about one inch every decade, and in Texas it is rising about two inches every decade. Experts predict that flooding, storms, and strong winds will only worsen in the coming years.
In California, the impact of climate change has manifested itself a bit differently. While southern California has warmed about three degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, the Golden State is not experiencing the same increase in precipitation as Florida and Texas.
Instead, rainfall is being suppressed by an expansion of the high pressure weather system from the subtropics. This is deflecting storms away from the state, causing severe drought and massive forest fires.
Why is climate change causing more car accidents?
In Florida and Texas, an increase in hurricanes and tropical storms during summer months, in addition to more frequent flash flooding, could explain the surge in car crashes.
In Texas, climate change also appears to be affecting winter weather. Earlier this year, Winter Storm Uri brought severe destructive weather to much of Texas, killing at least 210 people.
Health officials attributed most of the deaths to hypothermia following a massive electricity generation failure, but there was also a spike in fatal motor traffic accidents.
Researchers believe these types of winter storms will become more frequent in the southern parts of the U.S., as a warming Arctic Circle is forcing frigid polar air further south.
In California, you might expect extended periods of dry weather to make driving safer. Unfortunately, studies have shown that grime, motor oil, and other hazardous materials build up during times of drought.
When rain finally does arrive, these substances rise to the surface, making for very slippery conditions, in which skidding and hydroplaning are commonplace. Additionally, while overall rainfall has declined in California, the storms tend to be more intense than they used to be, leading to poor visibility and other dangerous conditions.
Whether you live on the east coast, the west coast, or in the Deep South, climate change is wreaking havoc on drivers. Texas has seen climate-related crashes increase by an average of 625, every single year since 2005. For Florida, the average increase is 506 per year, and for California, it is 423.
While these numbers are depressing, there is some hope that new initiatives, including the mass adoption of electric vehicles, will help reduce CO2 emissions enough to slow the impact of climate change. For the sake of everyone, let’s hope so.