Blog by: Graham Cookson, Chief Economist, EMEA

In Britain, we’re obsessed with the weather. According to recent research, 94% of British respondents admit to having talked about the weather in the past six hours, while 38% say they have in the past hour.

When our economy was predominantly based upon agriculture this fascination with the weather was understandable. Yet it persists today – and with good reason. For example, poor weather can lead to accidents resulting in physical harm, damage to property and significant congestion and delay.

Weather related accidents have a huge impact on travellers around the world, leading to:

  • 7,000 U.S.i and 8,000 Europeanii weather-related auto accident fatalities each year
  • $18 billion in commercial losses is caused by weather conditions
  • 25% of US accidents and 30% in Europe are weather relatediii

As well as the huge human cost, these fatalities impose a significant economic burden on society. For instance, each road accident fatality in the UK is valued at £1.836 million. This approach encompasses all aspects of the valuation of casualties, including the human costs, which reflect, pain, grief and suffering; the direct economic costs of lost output and the medical costs associated with road accident injuries. In addition to casualty related costs for each accident there are also costs related specifically to accidents, comprising of damage to property, police costs, and the costs of insurance administration.

Applying this value across Europe implies that the total cost of weather-related road deaths is over £15 billion per annum. Equivalent to building a 1,000 schools a year. In the UK alone, I estimate the economic cost of weather-related road accidents to be over £1 billion per annum. In contrast, technology and data have the ability to significantly reduce these deaths at a fraction of their multi billion Pound cost.

At INRIX we’re focused on making driving not only more efficient, but also safer. One of INRIX’s latest innovations that we will be presenting at ITS Europe in Glasgow from the 6th June 2016 is our Road Weather service.. Unlike traditional weather services, INRIX Road Weather provides information on the roads themselves, including type of precipitation, surface conditions and visibility, among others.

Despite huge improvements in car safety systems, the best thing drivers can do is to avoid dangerous road conditions completely, but that’s not always possible. Leveraging a broad set of public and private data sources, real-time vehicle sensor data, and weather forecast modelling, INRIX Road Weather keeps drivers and their vehicles informed of dangerous road conditions ahead.

The road condition information collected by INRIX is analyzed and transmitted to other vehicles and mobile applications giving drivers important and timely information on whether they should adjust their route or driving behaviour well ahead of the problem. INRIX Road Weather can also help public transportation and road maintenance agencies be more efficient applying resources. Additionally, it can assist emergency service personnel manage traffic flow before an accident occurs.

The best way to understand how INRIX Road Weather works is to watch our visualisation of the impact of Storm Desmond on the UK’s roads from December 2015. In comparison to traditional road sensors that monitor weather every 23 km (15 miles), INRIX Road Weather provides accurate weather data every 500 metres. The variation between the 23 km weather stations is dramatic as our visualisation demonstrates.

So at INRIX we think obsessing about the weather is a good thing if it can make our roads safer and our journeys quicker. And for those of you attending ITS Europe in Glasgow, the BBC tells me the weather will be warm but mostly cloudy.

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i 10-year averages from 2002 to 2012 analyzed by Booz Allen Hamilton, based on NHTSA data
ii 5 http://etsc.eu/wp-content/uploads/Briefing-Serious-Injury-Target_29-June-Update.pdf
iii 10-year averages from 2002 to 2012 analyzed by Booz Allen Hamilton, based on NHTSA data