Safe&Sound: What’s the #1 Fall Driving Danger if You Live in Virginia?

October and November have the highest number of car crashes of any other months of the year, according to monthly data in the 2015 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts Report by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. With kids in school and back to business as usual, our roadways become more dangerous not only due to activity, but also from seasonal changes. Let’s countdown the top 5 fall dangers for Virginia drivers.

#5 Creeping Fog

Cooler morning and evening temperatures against warmer fall days inevitably lead to foggy roadways just in time to set the mood for Halloween! This happens even more so in low lying areas, so be aware of a sudden change in road conditions. Slow it down and keep your distance from the cars ahead of you. Use your low beams, rather than high, and you’ll be in the clear, so to speak.

#4 Sun Glare 

Believe it or not, the sun becomes a bigger issue for you as summer wanes. As our days get shorter, the sun moves closer to the horizon and makes it more likely to reflect at low angles and point straight into your car. It also bounces off buildings, windows, and others cars making for some dangerously blinding driving conditions. Nothing that an easily accessible pair of sun glasses doesn’t cure. And make use of that visor too- it can quickly save you from a surprise glare!

#3 Oh Deer! (And Other Critters)

Did you know Virginia often makes the list of top 10 worst states for deer collisions? The National Institute for Highway Safety states that you are 3.5 times more likely to crash into an animal, especially a deer, during November. And this year’s no exception: the time when deer are on the move to mate, known as rut season, is predicted to peak just after mid-November in Virginia. But you can expect deer and other animals preparing for winter to be active October through the end of November, and even into December if it’s mild.

Picture by Dwight Burdette

Here are a few more tips:

  • Be aware of roadside deer warning signs- they’re posted in that area for a reason.
  • Make a note that they often travel in herds, so if you see one, more are bound to be close or following.
  • Deer travel most frequently at dawn and dusk, just in time for your work commute. Use your high beams whenever possible.
  • If you encounter an animal while driving, brake and do your best to not hit it, but do not swerve and risk running off the road.

And if you do hit a deer, no worries. We’re here to help

P.S. We never raise rates for no-fault crashes, not even for all Virginia's deer collisions.

#2 Diminishing Daylight

Our days are shortening and we return to standard time on November 5th. We may gain an hour of sleep, but it’s difficult to adjust after driving in long lasting daylight all summer. In the dark, your reaction times are much slower and longer. Low visibility conditions mean the need for increased stopping distances. According to the National Safety Council, 50% of traffic fatalities happen at night. So, slow down and take your time in the mornings and evenings. Remember, that’s when those deer are most active too! If you find yourself stranded in the dark, practice our 3 smart rules to roadside safety for women and keeping kids safe - it works for guys too!

Speaking of needing increased stopping distances, that brings us to the #1 fall driving danger!

#1 Wet leaves

Yep, wet leaves. If that surprises you, you should know the state of Virginia is more than 60% covered with trees with 15.72 million acres of forestland! Add fog and rain into a mix of this falling foliage. Then imagine this slick wet blanket covering a road filled with unsuspecting drivers with 105 pounds of hormonal wildlife zig-zagging across their path. Yikes!

This weather channel video gives you a good idea of how all those falling leaves get wet and make for the most dangerous of all fall driving:

Folks, fall is a season of a whole lot of change in the Commonwealth and has a tremendous effect on our driving. Buckle up, slow down, stay alert and undistracted, leave extra space between you and other drivers and extra time to get where you’re going. Practicing our highly effective defensive driving techniques is sure to help protect your family on the road. Keep our emergency roadside assistance number handy, just in case: 1-800-913-8847. And have a Virginia autumn that’s beautiful and safe and sound!

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