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THE LONG AND WIND-ING ROAD

An auto accident occurred on a road in Riverside County, California when one vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. The driver of the car which crossed the center line claimed that he lost control of his vehicle due to high winds. The driver of the other vehicle filed suit. Multiple defendants were named in the suit, including the local municipality. The claim stated that the city in which the accident occurred was negligent in the planning and construction of the road on which the accident took place, in as much as it was an area known to experience Santa Ana winds.

Attorneys representing the insurance carrier which covered the city contacted COMPUWEATHER. An analysis of the weather on the day of the accident was prepared, with emphasis on the winds. The research showed that it had been a day in which Santa Ana winds were coming off the mountainous areas to the east. Since the location of the accident was a number of miles away from the closest wind observing site, the meteorologist estimated the strength of the wind based on those observations as well as the local topography. His research determined that the wind at the time of the accident was coming from the northeast at 50-60 miles per hour. Since the road had been constructed eight years earlier, the meteorologist then did a search of all of the days during that time in which winds were of similar speeds of higher, and from the same northeasterly direction. The conclusion stated that there had been 26 such occurrences during that eight year span.

The attorneys then performed a search of public records. Traffic statistics indicated that an average of 5,500 vehicles use that stretch of road each day. Over the course of the 26 days, that amounted to 143,000 vehicles, each of which was a potential wind-related accident. But on all of those 26 previous days with similar Santa Ana winds, there was not one accident reported.

After presenting this evidence during several pre-trial hearings, it was determined that the city was not negligent, and was thus dropped from the suit.