FORT LEE, Va. – Most experienced motor vehicle operators understand the hazards of winter driving; however, there is a tendency to overlook the potential road safety risks of autumn that aren’t always obvious.
Daylight hours are getting shorter; the weather tends to be wet and windy; fluctuating temperatures cause dense patches of morning fog; fallen leaves can cover roads and make them slippery; and animals are more active preparing for winter storage and looking for a mate.
Those driving home in rush-hour traffic may experience frequent instances of blinding glare because the sun is sitting lower in the sky. Dirty windshields that diffuse the light and turn the glass opaque, totally obscuring the driver’s view, further exacerbate this problem.
With shorter daylight hours, more people will be heading to work or returning home in the dark when visibility is lower or the glare of oncoming headlights makes it difficult to see what is ahead. As temperatures decrease, the likelihood of frost-covered windshields in the morning increases, and far too many motorists fail to clear it away before hitting the road, posing an accident risk to themselves and others.
Leaves on the roadways disguise hidden dangers. They often cover road markings and camouflage potholes. Leaves can plug up drains and cause water to accumulate on paved surfaces. Wet leaves are especially dangerous as they make roads slick causing loss of traction and making steering and braking more hazardous. Avoid driving over piles of dry leaves, too, as they could ignite from contact with hot engine parts.
Woodland creatures become more active in the fall. It is mating season for deer and other large mammals. A buck in pursuit of a doe may not stop for traffic. Bears are focused on eating more calories to prepare for winter and are less cautious about being near people. Smaller animals are more active as they gather food stores. Slow down and be extra alert if living in an area where these animals roam.
Team Lee members can lower their accident risk by keeping windshields clean, checking wiper blades and windshield cleaning fluid, and maintaining proper tire pressure. Carry flares, flashlights and a cellphone to use if stranded due to mechanical difficulties. Be extra attentive, especially at night when it is difficult to see pedestrians or disabled vehicles on the side of the road.
Community members also are encouraged to check weather reports more frequently as sharply fluctuating temperatures typically result in foggy conditions during the morning hours or possible icy conditions, particularly on bridges and overpasses.
For more fall safety tips, visit www.nsc.org. Community members also should take a few moments to consider the following statistics about deer collision dangers and costs:
· Deer collisions up by 11 percent in 2019, according to Virginia DMV.
· Out of 6,523 crashes, 3,477 happened in last three months of year.
· Deer are most active from 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m.; prime commuting times for many.
· The average deer-related collision damage claim in Virginia in 2018 was $3,956.
· Only comprehensive insurance covers these types of accidents; “collision” does not.
· Swerving away from animals can confuse them and put you in the path of oncoming vehicles or increase the risk of hitting an electric pole or tree.
· Hard braking pulls the front end of a vehicle downward, increasing the chance of an animal crossing the hood toward the windshield upon impact.
· If collision occurs, do not approach the wounded animal; call for help.