Most people think winter is the most dangerous time of the year for car accidents. While winters in Pennsylvania come with inherent risks, the fall season contributes its own share of hazards to motorists and others on the road. It is also a time of year when the weather is unpredictable.
Car accidents happen more frequently in the fall for a number of reasons. Being aware of the most prominent fall-related hazards can help keep you and others safe on the road.
The weather in the fall months can widely vary and is typically temperamental. Anything from warm temperatures and rain to frost and snow can develop overnight during this season. In the fall, fluctuating temperatures and precipitation make the roads slippery, while fog significantly reduces driver visibility. Morning frost and icy spots on roads cause major hazards, especially as overnight temperatures drop toward freezing. These dangerous driving conditions can lead to all types of car accidents.
Fall is generally known to be a damp and wet season. Pennsylvania drivers should pay particular attention to bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas on roadways where icy spots are more likely to form. Motorists should also clear their car windows of any frost before driving. Considering fall’s everchanging weather, it is always wise to check the forecast to prepare for the road conditions before heading out to drive.
As autumn leaves fall and winds blow, leaves begin to scatter across the roads. When wet leaves accumulate on roadways, they can get extremely slippery and make driving conditions similar to driving on ice. When the temperature drops below freezing, wet leaves freeze as well, turning into dangerous, icy patches on the road.
October and November are the months when the bulk of leaves fall to the ground These leaves can force motorists to park farther from curbs to accommodate piles, and create puddles when they block drainage. They often obscure potholes and important road markings, causing many serious car accidents.
Hitting a hidden pothole can lead to serious physical injury and damage to vehicles. Also, motorists and bicyclists tend to drift when they are unable to see important lane markings that are covered up by leaves. Visiting motorists driving in unfamiliar areas in Pennsylvania are even more at risk for getting into a car accident.
Fog becomes more prevalent during the fall season due to longer nights and dropping temperatures. This can be extremely dangerous, as fog especially compromises motorists’ visibility during their drives to work or school in the morning. Data reflects that thousands of people are injured in fog-related car crashes each year.
Autumn is known for chilly mornings that trigger fog, which reduce drivers’ vision and distance perception. Many vehicles have fog lights that shine wide beams along the road and edges of streets, which also helps when for looking out for deer. Fog lights should be used in addition to low-beam headlights.
Sun glare can make it extremely difficult for drivers to see other vehicles, road signs, and traffic lights. The sun moves closer to the horizon in the fall, increasing sun glare and the likelihood of car accidents during this season. As the sun sits lower, its glare tends to reflect off of angles on buildings, other cars, and windows. When intense glare from the sun on the horizon blinds a driver, it can cause traffic to slow down unexpectedly and lead to a rear-end collision.
Sun glare is the most intense during sunrise and sunset, which coincides with morning and evening rush hour traffic. This makes these common times for fall car accidents. Pennsylvania motorists can prepare for sun glare this season by keeping a pair of sunglasses handy, using car sun visors, and keeping their vehicle’s windshields clean.
As daylight saving time (DST) ends, many people will be spending more time driving in the darker hours. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision can all be compromised in the dark. In addition, the glare of headlights from oncoming vehicles can temporarily blind a motorist on the road.
Pennsylvania drivers typically see road signs less clearly, have more trouble judging speed and distance, and are bothered more by headlight glare when traveling as darker driving hours increase. It is important for motorists to remember the changing daylight hours and try to avoid the more dangerous driving times.
Proper tire pressure helps keep cars rolling smoothly and safely. Tires generally drop at least 1 pound per square inch of pressure each month, no matter what the weather or season. However, when the air cools in the fall, that time accelerates as tires lose another pound per square inch of pressure for every 10 degrees of temperature drop.
Tires do not perform well on slippery surfaces without enough tread. Puddles often form on roadways in the fall, which can be dangerous and cause hydroplaning. Even before bigger puddles accumulate, rain can pool on the dust, grime, and oil that are on most roads and make the pavement slick. Fallen wet leaves can reduce a vehicle’s traction, cause skidding, and lead to drivers losing control of their cars. Therefore, it is crucial for drivers to check the traction and pressure of their tires more regularly during the fall months.
Back-to-school traffic presents challenges and hazards for Pennsylvania motorists, teen drivers, and children. It is important for drivers to stay especially alert in school zones and look out for students walking and riding bikes, as well as inexperienced teen drivers traveling to school with friends. It is also essential for drivers to keep school bus safety rules in mind.
Traffic patterns change the most significantly in the morning and evening hours during the fall season. Commuting times change with more cars on the road during those peak hours, and drivers are more likely to be in a rush. There are also more tourists in certain parts of Pennsylvania in the fall, causing heavier traffic and increasing the chance of getting into a car accident.
Between back-to-school traffic, changing weather, and leaf peepers, it is no surprise that car accidents are so common in the fall. It is important for motorists to stay especially vigilant on the roadways in the fall season in order to avoid a catastrophic car accident.
It is always important to drive defensively in the fall months. Even if you take all precautions, you have no control over other drivers’ behaviors or certain road conditions.
The following steps can help you avoid a car accident in the fall:
Though the fall season can be beautiful to experience in Pennsylvania, it can also present a number of dangers for drivers. It is important to stay mindful of your surroundings on the road and practice safe driving habits.
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If you were injured in a collision, our experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP are here to help. For a free consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form. We are located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.