Fall Driving Hazards

Originally published 10/25/2016

Most construction companies have a safety goal of “everybody goes home safe” and “come to work safe.” This motto encompasses driving to and from work as well as any driving performed while on the job.

Many people think that the most dangerous season for driving is the winter. However, a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Safety Institute in Ann Arbor revealed that the most dangerous season for driving is actually fall. The study discovered that the danger of dying in a car crash is 16 percent greater in October than in March. With the most dangerous driving season up on us, here are some key factors to consider.

  • Leaves – as leaves begin to fall, there are several things to think about.
    • Wet leaves are slippery and can reduce traction.
    • They can cover the yellow and white pavement markings on the road making it difficult to determine shoulder and lane widths.
    • They can get clogged under wiper blades, impeding wiper performance and visibility.
    • Parking too close to a leaf pile can be a fire hazard with catalytic converters.
  • Deer – deer collisions are most common in fall due to mating season, hunting season and the reduced hours of daylight.
    • Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They were put there for a reason. These areas have had high rates of car/deer collisions.
    • If a collision is unavoidable, hit the deer. This is safer than skidding off the road into trees and ditches.
    • Be aware that deer sometimes retrace their steps. They will cross the road, then cross back over in the same spot.
    • If you see one deer, be prepared for others. They usually travel in groups.
  • Farm Machinery – farmers harvesting will be on the roads.
    • Watch for slow-moving vehicles. A slow-moving vehicle sign is a reflective orange triangle with a red border. It warns other drivers that the vehicle displaying the sign is traveling at 25 mph or less.
    • Make sure the drivers of farm vehicles can see you.

Other fall driving hazards include:

  • Frozen bridges – Bridges freeze before the rest of the road because they are exposed to weather on both the top and the bottom. Use caution when transitioning from the pavement to a bridge surface.
  • Black Ice – Use extreme caution when driving on cold mornings where there is evidence of frozen moisture on the roadway.
  • Rain – Early fall storms are worse from a driver’s perspective because highways have a summers worth of oil and rubber buildup on the road and can become extremely slick when suddenly soaked.
  • Hydroplaning – If you feel like you are hydroplaning, steer straight and gently back off the throttle until you feel the tires make contact with the road.
  • Fog – This is statistically the single-most dangerous condition a driver can encounter. In dense fog, turn on your low beam headlamps, slow down to a crawl if necessary, and use extreme caution.

Winter months are synonymous with cautious driving. However, being cautious in every season could save a life.

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