It seems that spring is officially here! It also turns out that snow and ice are not the deadliest driving hazards. Even though winter conditions generate an increase of traffic accidents, those collisions usually involve injuries or property damage. It may feel safer for motorists to use their vehicles when spring finally arrives and there is no wonder why traffic increases with clearer skies and mild temperatures. However, a massive study from 46 million police reports tells us that as temperatures rise, so does the number of fatal accidents.
Spring driving can pose many dangerous situations that people take for granted. It’s important to understand each so you don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk. Here are several to consider:
- Road Conditions – Most people drive more cautious on snow or ice than they drive on the wet roads often seen in spring. While driving in spring does not seem as dangerous as winter, the constant rainfall and oil slicks combined with warmer weather can make for a dangerous driving environment. Winter also leaves its mark on the roadways by leaving behind large potholes which cause significant damage to cars and can contribute significantly to traffic accidents.
- Increased Traffic – More people on the road means more opportunities for things to go wrong. Compared to mainly passenger cars and trucks on the road, spring means you’re also sharing the roads with motorcyclists, bicyclists, and increased pedestrians. It can be difficult to see all of these due to the reduced profile they have than a car or truck has. Always check your surroundings several times before changing lanes, turning, or backing up. Keep a safe distance and reduce your speed to ensure everyone’s safety. The best course of action is to minimize all distractions and pay close attention, especially when approaching intersections. Remember they have just as much right to be on the road as you do.
- Inexperienced Drivers – The increased traffic also includes people who only drive occasionally and begin to venture out. Spring break and dwindling school schedules means that more teenagers are also out on the roads. In fact, some research has found that inexperienced teen drivers who lack defensive driving skills spend about 40 percent more time driving during months with nicer weather.
- More Construction – Road construction activity causes abnormal changes in speed, changes typical lane paths, and increases danger when road crews close off shoulders or require construction workers to stand closer to traffic. Workers and equipment may suddenly enter the roadway and traffic patterns can change daily to accommodate the work being done. It’s important to be alert through these areas and follow the construction zone speed limit that has been set.
- Daylight Savings Time – Yes, it’s surprising, but the switch to daylight savings time is a prominent factor in increased traffic accidents during spring. Deaths related to traffic incidents increase by 17% on the Monday after the spring time change. In fact, a 10-year-long reliable and conclusive study shows there is a spike in accidents over the entire week after daylight savings time takes effect. The increase might be attributed to the idea that even a small, sudden change of an hour’s time can throw off our bodies’ circadian rhythms, affecting our attention, decision-making skills, and you guessed it, making us more susceptible to traffic dangers.
- Sun Glare – When winter is in our rear-view mirror and bright, sunny days are ahead, we might not always be prepared for the more intense light the sunny days bring. Keeping a hat or visor with you and utilizing your vehicle’s sun visor can help. It’s always a good idea to wear a pair of polarized sunglasses while driving to help with direct sunlight and reflections off of other cars or wet roads. Hazards from sun glare often come during sunrise and sunset, since the sun is directly in the line of sight of drivers when it’s low on the horizon during those times. You should also keep your windshield clean. A dirty windshield can scatter light and make it more difficult to see the road and judge your driving environment.
- Increased Wildlife – Similar to when animals migrate in the fall, many animals come out of hibernation in the spring. The budding trees is an indicator when most animals begin searching for food. All types of creatures are more likely to come into contact with your vehicle or cause a crash. Also remember that many animals are more active during dusk and dawn. Add this to it being the peak time for sun glare and the chance of a run-in with your vehicle is even higher.
There’s nothing better when winter ends than hitting the open road and taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather. Being aware of the above-mentioned driving hazards – and knowing how to navigate them – can reduce your chances of being involved in a situation that could seriously impact you and others. Be aware, make smart decisions, and drive with caution.