In fall, leafy roadways are a crash risk and wet leaves are especially dangerous as they cause slick conditions.  -  Photo: maeder

In fall, leafy roadways are a crash risk and wet leaves are especially dangerous as they cause slick conditions.

Photo: maeder

Autumn is around the corner and the season brings with it specific weather-related driving hazards. In fact, over the last several years, October is one of the months that experienced the most roadway fatalities, according to the National Safety Council.

So as the season shifts from summer to fall in September, it’s a good time to remind your fleet drivers of safety issues they may encounter in the coming months and provide strategies for addressing those issues.

Dealing with Leaves

The changing color of the leaves may be beautiful to look at, but it means those leaves will soon be falling onto the road, creating complications for motorists. Fallen leaves can hide potholes, traffic lines, stop lines and other road markings that you need to see to drive safely.

Wet leaves are especially dangerous, because they create slick conditions that can cause you to skid if you’re traveling too fast or try to stop too abruptly.

In fact, the vast majority of weather-related crashes — some 70% -- happen on wet pavement, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That’s far more than the 18% that occur during snow.

In addition, fall foliage is a tourist attraction that can create traffic congestion that can lead to greater crash risks. Motorists who are gazing at the foliage aren’t focused on the drive, so they might slow or stop unexpectedly, veer into other lanes or cut you off. And since they may not be familiar with the area, they could stop short to make a turn or become distracted while looking for road signs or checking directions.

Here are some tactics to keep in mind when dealing with leaf-covered roads:

  • Slow down whenever you see leaves on the ground.
  • If the road is wet or it’s raining, slow down even more in areas of fallen leaves.
  • When you see out-of-area license plates, give those drivers more room and increase your following distance.
  • Scan carefully and stay alert for distracted drivers in areas that attract tourists looking at foliage.

Driving in Fog

As temperatures begin to drop further at night, the colder mornings will often give way to fog — a dangerous weather condition for drivers, because it significantly reduces driving visibility.

Fog is especially common at lower elevations, such as on roads near hills and mountains, but it can occur nearly anywhere if the conditions are right.

Many motorists mistakenly believe that their high beam headlights will help to cut through fog, but the opposite is true: High beams make visibility worse by bouncing off the fog and creating glare.

Share these strategies with your drivers:

  • Use your regular headlights — not your high beams – in the fog. Or if your vehicle has fog lights, use them to improve visibility and to help you track the road markings and maintain your position in your lane.
  • Reduce your speed greatly to compensate for reduced visibility in the fog.
  • Allow much more following distance than you would in good weather conditions.
  • Approach curves and hills carefully and at a reduced speed in case there is a
  • vehicle headed your way but not easily visible.
  • Check the weather at night so you know whether to expect fog in the morning.
  • Get an earlier start on your drive if fog is in the forecast.

Frosty Encounters

The same drop in nighttime temperatures that can create fog can also lead to frost, both on your vehicle and on the road. Frost on your windshield or other vehicle surfaces should be a warning sign that there may be frost on the roads, too — a clear indicator that you need to adapt your driving. Frost can occur anywhere, but it’s most common on bridges and overpasses, as well as areas of the road that are shaded, such as the section of the road under an overpass.

  • If frost is on your vehicle in the morning, assume it is on the road, too.
  • Take the time to clear frost from your vehicle completely before you drive. Use your defroster and a snowbrush or scraper.
  • Reduce your speed if you see or suspect frost on the road.
  • Gradually slow down in advance of a bridge, overpass or other area that is likely to be slick with frost, as well as on ramps, along curves and when making turns.
  • Don’t slam on the brakes abruptly when you reach a slick spot. Use slow, gradual braking to reduce your speed.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 5.8 million vehicle crashes occur each year and approximately 21% of those — or just over 1.2 million —involved hazardous weather conditions. Moreover, the agency attributes some 5,376 fatalities every year to weather-related collisions.