Written by Mark Winters, Assistant Transportation Manager
Safe driving practices are essential all through the year. However, being aware of the unique autumn driving hazards and adjusting your driving habits will make you a safer driver. The autumn equinox arrives September 22.
Situational awareness will allow you to prepare and be aware of the following risks and hazards while driving in the fall:
Fall means it’s back-to-school season. As drivers, we may be used to the back-to-school traffic. But the kids may not be; especially new student drivers eager to get home after a long day or younger kids darting between cars excited to arrive at school. Remember to keep your eyes moving when approaching an active school zone. Be ready to stop for a school bus with its red flashers on.
Key 5 – Make Sure They See You
Your chances of hitting an animal are three to four times greater, especially a deer, in the fall as at any other point in the year. Make sure to scan your eyes from ditch to ditch. Deer are likely mating in November and potentially being spooked by the next hazard.
Key 3 – Keep Your Eyes Moving
Here are some road safety tips during harvest:
- Slow down immediately when you see farm equipment ahead of you on the road. Farm equipment isn’t very fast, think 15-20 mph on the road on average. Be aware of your closing speed. Key 1 – Aim High in Steering
- Be patient and wait to safely pass farm equipment
- Along those same lines, be careful when approaching on-coming farm equipment. Oncoming vehicles might not be as patient and pull out to pass the farm equipment—right into your path. Key 4 – Leave Yourself an Out
- Harvest amplifies deer movement both day and night. Watch your speed and scan your surroundings. Situational awareness will help reduce the risk. Key 2 – Get the Big Picture
Unfortunately, fall brings more hours of darkness and less light, which means more driving at night. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision can be diminished in the dark. The glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can temporarily blind a driver. Adjust your following distance and speed to account for the decrease of your vision.
Changing Weather Conditions
In many areas, autumn is a damp, wet season. There are many rainy or foggy days and nights.
- When driving in fog, set your headlight to low beam. This aims the beam of light towards the roadway.
- As temperatures drop, frost often forms on the roadway, causing hazardous driving conditions. Drive slowly and brake gently on overpasses and bridges; these areas frost quicker than other roadway surfaces.
- Be aware of black ice and adjust your speed accordingly.
These are just a few of the hazards associated with the upcoming autumn equinox. Prepare and be aware by using the 5 Keys of the Smith System.