Car accidents are a leading cause of death in the United States. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistical projection of traffic fatalities for 2019, an estimated 36,120 people died in vehicle crashes that year alone. Although there are inherent risks of driving during any time of year, the changing weather and road conditions that come with the fall season present additional hazards. New Jersey drivers can protect themselves and others on the road this season by keeping fall driving safety tips in mind.
Tips to Drive Safely During the Fall Season
Driving safely in autumn entails much of the same safe driving behaviors that should be enacted year-round. When drivers do not follow safety rules, it can lead to car accident injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, or even death. Being aware of the main causes of car accidents can help motorists avoid risky driving behaviors that lead to crashes and injuries. Common causes of motor vehicle crashes include the following:
- Speeding. One of the main causes of car accidents, speeding increases the risk of fatality, according to the NHTSA. In 2018 alone, 9,378 people were killed in speeding-related accidents. Drivers should always follow the speed limit and plan their trip in advance, leaving themselves plenty of time to get to their destination.
- Drunk or impaired driving. Getting behind the wheel while under the influence increases the risk of having a car accident. Alcohol impairs drivers’ ability to react quickly, see clearly, and make good decisions. Motorists should never drink and drive; having a designated driver or using a ride-sharing service is a wise option.
- Drowsy driving. A recent AAA study found that the driving performance of those who are fatigued is comparable, and sometimes even worse, than those of drunk drivers. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night is one of the most important things drivers can do to reduce the risk of drowsy driving accidents. If someone feels drowsy while driving or is having difficulty remembering the last few miles they drove, they should pull over to rest before continuing.
- Distracted driving. The NHTSA estimates that 400,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018. There are many things that can take a driver’s attention off the road; texts, phone calls, navigation systems, and passengers are a few common distractions. Drivers need to keep their attention on the road and avoid activities such as eating, talking on the phone, or reaching for objects while driving.
- Adverse weather conditions. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reports that approximately 1.2 million vehicle crashes each year involve hazardous weather and that weather-related crashes kill approximately 5,376 people per year. Wet pavement and rain are the main underlying causes of these weather-related car accidents. Drivers need to reduce their speed and drive attentively when roads are wet.
- Reckless driving. Tailgating, running red lights, driving aggressively, or otherwise flouting traffic laws can lead to serious accidents. Motorists should wear their seat belt at all times and obey the rules of the road, such as following the speed limit, using turn signals, and granting pedestrians the right of way to reduce the risk of getting in an accident this fall.
Fall Driving Challenges
Fall ushers in not only colorful foliage and crisp weather, but also its own unique set of challenges. Being mindful of these challenges can help drivers stay safe this season. The following are hazards for which motorists need to be prepared when driving in New Jersey this fall:
- Back to school. The new schoolyear begins in the fall, which means more children are out and about. Drivers need to be on the lookout for children crossing the street, especially in front of schools. There will be more traffic on the roads, so drivers need to be prepared to proceed slowly and make frequent stops for school buses. Also, it is wise to be extra cautious on Halloween, a time when many children are out trick-or-treating in the dark. Drivers need to travel slowly through neighborhoods and not pass stopped vehicles.
- The end of Daylight Saving Time. Daylight Saving Time comes to an end during fall; this year, it ends on November 1. With less hours of daylight, drivers may be on the roads in the dark for longer periods of time. Human vision is compromised in the dark, which means drivers have less time to react to road hazards, especially when traveling at high speeds. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 50 percent of traffic deaths happen at night. Drivers need to make sure their headlights and high beams are working before getting on the road and use them at the appropriate times to reduce the risk of getting in a car accident.
- More animals on the roads. Some animals mate in the fall, which means they may venture out onto roads and highways. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that drivers are over three and a half times more likely to hit an animal, especially a deer, in November than during any other time of the year. Drivers need to be alert and reduce speed when traveling through areas with large deer populations, especially at dawn and dusk when they are most active.
- Piles of wet leaves. Fallen leaves accumulating on the road present a driving hazard. Driving across wet leaves can be as dangerous as driving across ice because both obstacles reduce tire traction and may cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle. Drivers should proceed slowly when going over leaves and not slam on the brakes. Also, motorists need to leave plenty of distance between themselves and the driver in front of them in case their vehicle skids or spins out of control.
- Decreased tire pressure and other vehicle maintenance issues. Vehicle maintenance is especially important during the fall. Fluctuations in temperature may cause tires to expand and contract, which leads to lost air pressure. A vehicle’s tires must be checked to make sure they are adequately inflated and that they have enough tread to stop in wet conditions. It is also important for drivers to check headlights, taillights, turn signals, heating and cooling systems, the battery, and windshield wiper blades before getting on the road this fall.
- Increased glare and fog. The sun is lower in the sky during fall and winter, which makes glare worse. This increased sun glare can make it difficult for drivers to see, especially at sunrise and sunset. It is a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses handy, so a driver does not get blinded when driving during these times of day. Fog is another concern in the fall; fog lights should be used in addition to low-beam headlights when necessary.
- Wet weather conditions. It tends to rain more during the fall months; with cold temperatures, rain can turn into snow or ice. Drivers need to be on the lookout for puddles, which may accumulate in the road and cause vehicles to hydroplane. Also, caution must be exercised when driving under bridges, on overpasses, and on shady parts of the road, as ice can remain there even when it has melted in other sunny areas. Finally, it is important to scrape off any frost that has accumulated on the windshield, and the wiper blades should be checked for any signs of wear.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Seek Compensation for Drivers Injured in Accidents During the Fall Season
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, contact a Freehold car accident lawyer at Ellis Law. Our experienced attorneys will help you navigate the legal system and obtain the compensation you deserve. Our dedicated legal team will protect your legal rights every step of the way. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.