Safe Fall Driving

Late fall poses many risks to drivers – shorter days and longer nights after the end of Daylight Saving Time can lead to disrupted sleep schedules, making drowsy driving a real risk. Deer are in the thick of the “rut” or mating season, increasing the likelihood of a deer-vehicle collision. And the holiday season means get-togethers and gatherings, and the unfortunate possibility of impaired drivers on the roads.

Keep these tips in mind when navigating the highways, byways, main streets and back roads this fall:

Driving in dark or low-light conditions

After Daylight Saving Time ends, our bodies have to adjust to the time change and the darker evening commute. This disruption to the body’s rhythm can have an impact on driving safety. After the time change, the hour between 5 and 6 p.m. becomes especially dangerous.

Because the evening commute is darker, visibility and alertness are key. Drivers can adapt to the darkness by:

Ensuring lights are in good working order. Headlights can show deterioration after even three years. Check for yellowing, clouding and other changes in appearance. Restoring or replacing headlights can increase visibility.

Decreasing speed. Travel at slower speeds to compensate for reduced visibility and increase following distance when it’s dark or weather conditions are poor.

Turning slowly at intersections. Reduce speed in turns, especially in areas with poor lighting. Slow speeds to 5 mph when turning, and don’t speed through yellow light and turn at the same time.

Not being blinded by the light. If oncoming headlights are too bright, look down toward the right side of the road and follow the edge of the lane or the white-edge line to stay on course until the vehicle passes.

Being aware of glare. Sun glare can compromise visibility. Use a sun visor, invest in polarized sunglasses, and leave extra room between your car and the car in front of you when the sun is in your eyes.

Car driving at night

Be awake, be alert, be safe

Drowsy driving can increase crash risk. Sleepiness decreases awareness, slows reaction time and impairs judgment, much like alcohol- or drug-impaired driving. Symptoms of sleepiness behind the wheel include:

  • Having trouble keeping eyes open and focused on the road
  • Daydreaming or having wandering, disconnected thoughts
  • Drifting out of the lane or tailgating
  • An inability to keep the head up
  • Not remembering the last few miles traveled

Drivers can remain alert and avoid driving tired by:

  • Getting plenty of sleep (at least six-seven hours) the night before a long trip.
  • Taking a break every two hours or 100 miles.
  • Traveling at times when normally awake or breaking up the trip instead of driving straight through.
  • Stopping driving when sleepy. Someone who is tired can fall asleep at any time.
  • Not getting behind the wheel already tired. The only substitute for lack of sleep is sleep.

Don’t fight to stay awake behind the wheel – pull over to a safe place, lock the doors and take a quick nap.

be awake, be alert

Oh, deer! Watch for animals

Animals on the roadway are unexpected and their actions can be erratic and unpredictable, creating a dangerous situation for motorists. Deer mating season runs from October to December, a period of time known as the “rut.” Deer are more active during dawn and dusk hours, when they are looking for food, shelter or a mate. Use extra caution this fall to avoid a wildlife-vehicle collision:

Scan the road and off-road areas ahead. Deer may dash out from the should or wooded areas adjacent to the road. Looking ahead provides more reaction time if an animal is spotted.

Slow down. Reduce speed in low-light conditions, which increases the time to respond to unexpected wildlife movements.

Be patient. Where there is one, there may be many. Deer tend to move in groups, so if a deer crosses the road, chances are there are more to follow.

Be prepared. If a collision is unavoidable, apply the brakes firmly and remain in the lane; swerving sharply to avoid an animal can cause an even more serious crash.

Deer crossing

Drive sober, drive safe

Virtually all drivers know that alcohol- and drug-impaired driving is dangerous. Alcohol and drug use impairs judgment, vision, reaction time and muscle control – all abilities required for safe driving. However, alcohol-impaired driving remains an epidemic – in 2021, 13,384 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes, equivalent to one person every 39 minutes. And cannabis is commonly linked to substance-impaired driving. Cannabis impairs motor functions and physiological functions critical to safe driving.

Preventing alcohol- and drug-impaired driving is a shared responsibility. Follow these tips to prevent impaired driving:

  • Always plan ahead to designate a non-drinking driver before any party or celebration begins.
  • Never get behind the wheel of a car after drinking – even one drink can be too many.
  • Never ride as a passenger in a car driven by someone who has been drinking alcohol or using cannabis.
  • Do not hesitate to take the keys from friends or family members who may be impaired.
  • Use ride-sharing or call a taxi for a friend in need.
  • Be a responsible host in reminding guests to stay safe and always offer alcohol-free beverages
  • If you encounter an impaired driver on the road, keep a safe distance and ask a passenger to call 911 (or pull over to a safe location to make the call)
  • Remember these simple messages: If you’re going to drink or use cannabis, don’t drive. If you’re going to drive, don’t drink or use cannabis.
Drive sober
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