Fall Driving Tips
Fall is the start of hazardous driving conditions in certain areas of the country, and driving in the fall creates a new set of seasonal risks for truck drivers. From shorter days to increased road obstacles, drivers need to be on guard for fall-related hazards and know the necessary tips to prevent accidents. Here's Safety Director, Brian Pickett 's top tips for Driving in the Fall.
The new season brings shorter days which leads to reduced visibility while driving. The most common contributors to reducing visibility are fog, heavy precipitation, snow, dust and smoke. These can affect a driver's depth perception, sensitivity to oncoming headlights, visual acuity, and color recognition. According to the Federal Highway Administration, "each year, over 38,700 vehicle crashes occur" due to reduced visibility. To prepare for reduced visibility conditions, remember these tips:
- Avoid driving in the dark when possible. This may not be an option at times, but be prepared and try to avoid creating a high risk for accidents.
- Keep windows and mirrors clean. Things such as snow, ice, and heavy rain all increase the chance of accidents.
- Slow down to increase perception and reaction times. One of the main causes of accidents with semi-trucks in general are due to high speeds.
Truck drivers encounter farm equipment on roads more during harvest season. Farm equipment is slow moving and difficult to see around the majority of the time. They have fewer lights, fewer warning triangles and reflectors that make them less conspicuous. Farm equipment drivers are known to make sudden movements off-road or into fields, so always keep your guard up when approaching. When encountering an oncoming, extra-wide farm vehicle straddling the center line, remember it cannot easily make room. Consider the following driving tips around farm vehicles:
- Watch for highway warning signs indicating a farm crossing when on a more agricultural area.
- Slow down to avoid a rear-end crash.
- Be patient and do not pass unless it's safe and legal to do so.
- Avoid distractions and be vigilant toward the appearance of farm equipment in agricultural areas.
Back to School
The fall means the start of school, so parents, kids, and others will make the roads much busier, especially at certain times of the day. Most accidents involving young schoolchildren occur between 3 PM and 6 PM. Be mindful of school zones, bus stops, and buses on the roadway, especially in rural areas. Also, look out for parents dropping off and picking up children. Here's some driving tips for school zones:
- Reduce speed and obey all traffic laws (school buses, cross walks, etc.).
- This goes without saying but just in case, avoid distractions (texting/talking on the phone, etc.) which may be illegal in school zones.
- Plan ahead and use an alternate route to avoid school zones.
Fall brings an increase in deer activity and other animals crossing roads. When out on the open road, animal strikes are more common. Havahart, who is dedicated to ethical animal control, states, "in a given year, there are over 260,000 crashes involving animals accounting for 12,000 human injuries, and over 150 human fatalities." In recent years, there has also been an increase in wildlife populations, meaning the chances of an animal strike have increased. To avoid injuring yourself and animals, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Avoid distractions and be attentive to the road ahead. Animal strikes can occur day or night, so always keep your eyes open.
- Slow down to increase perception and reaction times. Traveling at a safe speed is a good practice to do anyways, but agricultural and rural areas lead to an increase in animal encounters.
- Do not swerve out of your lane; hit the animal if needed, to avoid losing control of the truck. Most of the time, the truck will win.
This was sort of mentioned for reduced visibility, but other elements such as wet leaves, frost, and freezing rains can make the road slippery. These can affect the truck's stopping distance and have bad results. Depending on your load, drivers should adjust their driving and keep these safety tips at top-of-mind:
- Reduce speed if weather starts to arise and increase following distance of the vehicle in front of you.
- Prior to leaving, perform a pre-trip inspection and ensure tires have proper tread depth.
- Keep brakes properly adjusted. Brakes are the most common culprit for semi-truck accidents.
While fall brings in a new time of year, the weather changes along with it. Just like spring, summer, and winter, fall has its own hazards that come with it such as fog, rain, ice and so on. Keeping up with proper preventative maintenance is another essential part of driving safely in the fall season; checking tires, brakes, mirrors, and lights are going to help keep you and other drivers safe when out of the road. Remember what the hazards are and learn what you can do to combat them.