Fall Safety Driving Tips
There’s no debate about it… Autumn in West Michigan is stunning!! But with the change of season, comes added hazards on the road. In a recent look at fall’s most common road hazards by region, the greater Great Lakes area saw ‘Collisions With Animals’ at 51% and Rear End Accidents at 16%, other dangers lurking on our greater Grand Rapids roads during this season. Not only is it important to identify what they are, but what to do in case you discover yourself face to face with them.
Deer season is an incredibly popular season in West Michigan, but for drivers it can be an especially dangerous time to navigate the roads safely. Collisions with animals account for more than half of insurance claims during the autumn months for many of us in the Great Lake state. While you may not be able to stop animals from crossing in front of your vehicle, there are things you can do to avoid hitting them or reduce your damage if you do.
- Experts agree you should never, ever swerve to avoid an animal. Doing so can cause your vehicle to veer into oncoming traffic or leave the roadway.
- Be vigilant, especially at dusk and dawn for deer on the side of the road. Look for the telltale sign of eyes shining as they reflect the light from your headlights.
- Deer are social creatures who travel in herds. Look for more to follow if you spot one.
Just as in Spring and Summer months, motorists should take care to avoid bicyclists, who are legally allowed to share the roadways with vehicles. Many cities and municipalities have begun creating bike lanes to give cyclists more protection and recent legislation has taken it a step further, making it a law that vehicles must give cyclists a 5 foot safe space for passing.
Rural areas, such as Caledonia, Middleville and Hastings are no stranger to farm equipment on the road. Often times, it is slow moving, large and heavy, making their presence an added nuisance. Slowing down, utilizing care and patience as you pass these is recommended.
Beautiful weather and back to school are all reasons for finding more people on the road in fall. Joggers, walkers and even people whose vehicles are disabled on the side of the road can become a hazard when driving. Slow down and give plenty of space when passing people in the road.
Emergency vehicles include police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. They may be stationary or they may be moving quickly towards you. Always pull over and stop when encountering an emergency vehicle moving towards you with flashing lights and be sure to slow down and move over when passing one that is stationary on the road. Not only is it the safer thing to do, but it’s the law in Michigan.
You may not even realize it, but driving through an intersection is one of the most dangerous situations you can place yourself and your vehicle in. Light signals are only effective when people obey them, and all too often people assume that the other vehicle will stop simply because they are supposed to do so. Never make assumptions that another driver will stop just because they are required to by law. Driving defensively, with eyes scanning in all directions can help avoid a disaster in an intersection.
Fall means back to school and an increase in traffic, bus stops and school zones. Reduce speeds in school zones to avoid a hefty fine and even more importantly, possibly harming a child or other person in these high pedestrian zones. Always keep your attention singular to driving safely when driving through a school zone and familiarize yourself with the various bus stops possible (red flashing overheads vs. hazard light stops) in order to obey all traffic laws and increase the safety of everyone around you.
Anyone who has driven to work in Michigan during the winter months, knows that it might be the same dark drive both to and from. As young children we learned that this is the result of the Earth’s tilt making us further from the sun but as drivers, we should recognize how this reduction in visibility also increases are risk on the road. Keep your headlights clean in order to increase your visibility and make sure they are aimed correctly. Dim dashboard lights that are making it hard to see, and keep your windshield clean as any streaks will be amplified by the glare of oncoming headlights.
One of the most beloved aspects of fall are the beautiful kaleidoscope of color that envelopes our West Michigan world. But as those pretty leaves fall onto the ground, they can become dangerous on the road. Experts agree that wet leaves can become as slick as ice so avoid braking on them when possible.
We never know when old man winter will show his hostile head in Michigan but we should be prepared! Be aware that roads may be frost covered long before it’s officially winter, reducing speed.
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