Spring Driving Hazards
Well, the snow is finally gone and we can start relaxing behind the wheel again...or perhaps not. Remember, the most important mile that you will ever drive is the mile that you are driving right now.
Although winter may be over, along with good weather comes a whole new group of hazards that drivers need to be aware of. Each of these hazards has the potential for causing accidents and ruining a good driving record. Professional drivers need to be aware of these hazards and prepare accordingly - so they always take time to review and refresh safe driving habits and protect their hard earned safe driving record.
Fog is perhaps the most dangerous of the hazards that accompany springtime. As the temperature rises, fog can quickly form over the still cool ground and create dangerous patches of zero visibility. When approaching the fog area, you cannot tell whether it is a patch of dense fog or a long area of tenuous fog. Waiting until you are entering into it is a sure formula for being involved in a collision. The first rule for driving in fog is SLOW DOWN to a speed that allows you to stop within your sight distance. Remember, stopping from a speed of 60 miles per hour requires over 420 feet plus the distance that you travel during perception time. At 30 miles per hour, it only takes 100 feet plus perception time to stop. Since many accidents occur just as the vehicle enters into the fog, operating safely means you must slow before you enter the fog - not after! Of course, as always, use your headlights (low beam) and, in dense fog, turn on your 4- way flashers.
If the fog is so dense that you have to slow to a speed that causes you to worry about being rear-ended by other traffic, find a safe haven to park your vehicle and wait until the fog lifts. Compared to the possible consequences of continuing, the delay is a minor issue.
As the weather improves, people who were afraid to drive in snow and ice will be back on the roads. This means that not only is there more congestion, but many of the drivers that are out there have limited skills. Adding to this is the increase in vacation traffic including people pulling campers and boats. Many of these people only tow occasionally and are not comfortable with the size and towing characteristics of their equipment. If you need to pass them, do so with extreme caution and be sure that there is plenty of room for them to adjust to your presence. Of course, as always, maintain a safe following distance until you can move over and go around them.
Spring brings out the orange barrels. This means that you must be prepared for delays and traffic conflicts. Observe the warning signs and slow well in advance of approaching the construction area. Anticipate that cars will cut you off at the last minute as they move from the closed lane into the travel lane. Where possible, give the construction crews as wide a berth as possible and watch for construction traffic entering the road. Leave early so that you are not tempted to speed or operate in an unsafe manner to make up time lost in construction delays.
RAIN and WET ROADS:
Spring can bring heavy rains that flood the road. Remember, it is not only your vehicle that you need to watch, but those of everyone else on the highway. Watch for cars that are speeding and have a high potential for hydroplaning. Again, give them plenty of room and when they pass you, back off until they have established a safe following distance that allows you to adjust to any loss of control on their part. Rain can also create visibility issues for both you and the traffic around you. Check mud flaps during your pre-trip inspection and make sure that they are in place and undamaged. Slow down while driving so that you increase your ability to control your vehicle. Remember, you must be prepared to stop suddenly or take evasive maneuvers to avoid other traffic. Always have an escape route planned because the speed that you can travel in a straight line is probably too fast for any sudden accident avoidance efforts.
DEER, ELK, MOOSE and WILDLIFE:
Springtime is baby time! Many of the animals and wildlife are pregnant and are either slower than they expect to be or are not as observant as they normally are. Deer and other wildlife can also dart suddenly and are hard to see until they are right in front of the vehicle. Reduce your speed and keep a vigilant look-out. If you do see an animal in front of you, do not swerve. Reduce your speed and maintain your lane. Most animal/vehicle collisions that result in loss of control occur as the result of the driver trying to avoid the animal. While it is true that you don’t want to hurt the animal, most control loss accidents occur because the driver was swerving and lost control of the vehicle.
Be ready for springtime!
Spring safe driving is nothing more than a combination of common sense and a good knowledge of what the hazards are. Before you drive, go over your route and think about the hazards that you might encounter. Prepare yourself early by reviewing safe driving techniques and be prepared for the next mile.