Weather conditions can be unpredictable in the Fall for those of us on the East Coast and around the Hudson Valley. A bright, beautiful afternoon can turn rainy and cold in minutes. And with days getting shorter, you could find yourself commuting to or from work in darkness. The following are some Fall driving safety tips we share with our commercial truck drivers that also applies to commuters driving passenger cars. Drive safe!
Fall road hazards:
Cold fall mornings often lead to fog, which can greatly limit your driving visibility and perception of distance. When driving through fog, slow down and stay well behind the car in front of you so you’ll have adequate time to stop if you need to.
During the fall, temperatures tend to drop dramatically during the night, which can lead to morning frost and icy spots on the road. This is especially common on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas of the road.
All across the Hudson Valley when the leaves begin to fall it makes the streets very slick. They also hide potholes and other road hazards. And when it rains, it can make those wet leaves on the roadway as dangerous as ice. Avoid sudden stops and be sure to leave ample space between you and the car in front of you just in case.
Even without leaves, the first rain in a few weeks can be particularly dangerous, as water pools on top of dust and oil that haven’t had a chance to wash away and makes the pavement extremely slippery.
Back to School Traffic
Fall means back to school for kids, which means more cars and buses on the roads. Drivers also need to watch out for increased pedestrian traffic in the morning and afternoon as children walk to and from school and their neighborhood bus stops.
Two-thirds of all deer/vehicle collisions occur during the months of October, November and December. This is also the time when deer breed and when they travel the most. Daily deer activity is highest at dawn and dusk, which often the highest time of travel for motor vehicle commuters. Deer travel in groups – if you see one, expect more. Decrease speed when you approach deer that are near roadsides. Deer can “bolt” or change direction at the last minute. Areas where there have been many deer/vehicle collisions often are marked with deer crossing signs.
The cooler fall weather and leaves changing colors brings many to the Hudson Valley. And our region is full of great bike trails. For some cyclists though, there is nothing like riding on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other and foster a safer transportation environment. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.
Safety Tips for Driving Near Trucks
On your morning commute, you may find yourself sharing the road with several 18-wheelers. Experienced drivers know the importance of practicing defensive driving techniques, which is especially important when the vehicle next to yours is more than three times as big. Include a safe following distance among essential car travel tips.
Make sure you don’t drive in a trucker’s blind spot. These expansive carriers have much larger blind spots than a standard-sized car. Avoid driving in the regions to the right-rear, mid-left and right-front of a nearby truck. Only pass when you have enough space and time, so you don’t get caught cruising in an area that is hard for the other driver to see.
If you need to make a turn, don’t cross in front a truck and then quickly brake because it won’t be able to stop in time. On average, trucks need three times more distance to stop than passenger vehicles.When you notice a 22 or 48-foot tractor trying to merge onto the highway, you can flash your headlights to indicate that you will wait to allow the truck to cross in front of you.
In the end, if driving down highway lanes next to large trucks still makes you feel uncomfortable, you may find it easier to avoid interstate roadways that permit commercial traffic including tractor-trailers. There are a number of Hudson Valley area parkways in both New York and Connecticut that are free of commercial trucks.
Additional Driving Safety Tips
- Always get out and check your surroundings before backing up.
- Get in the habit of planning your route ahead of time.
- Pre-trip and post-trip inspections are essential to avoid any break downs while on the road. Check your vehicles fluid levels and tire air pressure. Make sure all your headlights, signals, and break lights work too or you may find yourself getting pulled over by law enforcement.
- If you feel sick, dizzy, have blurred vision, or otherwise don’t feel well enough to drive please do not get behind the wheel.
- Avoid aggressive drivers and more importantly avoid becoming an aggressive driver! Keep calm and drive safe.
- Secure all passengers, luggage, pets, and put away loose items in your vehicle before you start driving. When you are driving your attention needs to be on the road.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat-belts save lives. If an accident does occur, a seat belt will keep you from being ejected from the seat and also help maintain control of the vehicle.
- Drive at a safe speed observing the speed limits.
- Stop fully at all stop signs.
- Slow down when approaching road hazards.
- Don’t change lanes abruptly.
- Stay alert to traffic signals and road conditions.
- Use turn signals.
- Slow down to let trucks have the right of way.
- Never cut in front of a truck.
- Avoid driving alongside trucks whenever possible – if you can’t see the truck driver’s face in the side mirror, he or she can’t see you.
- Avoid tailgating.