Many owner operator truck drivers agree that winter is the toughest time of the year for driving, especially when your routes take you into higher elevations or farther north. However, don’t let your guard down just because it’s fall. Autumn hazards can cause accidents just as easily as winter hazards. Here are four dangers to watch for in the fall:
Black ice is a thin ice coating on the road that is difficult to spot. It is caused by freezing water from any source. While southern states like South Carolina normally wouldn’t have this problem in the fall, an unusual overnight cold snap can freeze wet pavement, water puddles, and wet bridges. Shaded parts of the road take longer to melt the following day and can take you by surprise while braking or rounding a corner. Be especially careful on bridges. The farther north your driving takes you, the greater the risk.
If you notice ice ahead but have too little time to slow down, avoid exerting traction with your tires in the form of braking, accelerating, turning, or shifting gears. You want to roll across the ice in a straight line. This strategy works if the icy section is short.
Thanks to shorter days and the change to daylight saving time, you will do more driving with the sun lower in the sky. Glare makes pedestrians, car brake lights, and road hazards less visible. Keep the inside and outside of your windshield clean because dirt, grime, smudges, and cigarette smoke residue increase glare. Keep a pair of polarized sun glasses handy and use your sun visor.
Fallen leaves don’t seem like much, but sometimes they’re wet underneath even though the rest of the pavement is dry. If you take a corner that’s full of wet leaves at the same speed as you would on dry pavement, your tires will slip. Whether you recover or get into an accident will depend on the circumstances. Dry leaves also reduce tire traction with the road.
Autumn is mating season for deer, which makes them more active. They are especially a problem during dawn and dusk. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t out drive the reach of your headlights.
- Look for deer eye shine (caused by your headlights).
- Deer are herd animals and where there is one deer, there are sure to be others nearby.
- Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They are often placed in areas where deer have caused traffic accidents.
- Don’t swerve when one jumps in front of you. Keep your truck straight and brake while staying in control. If the deer doesn’t get out of the way, keep going straight. Swerving will either jackknife your rig, cause you to go off the road, or cause a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. Hitting the deer will cause the least damage.