The hazards of winter driving are not restricted only to ice and snow. Fewer daylight hours are also a factor as well. At no time is that more apparent than the first two weeks following the return to standard time in North America. That happened on the first weekend in November, by the way.
Numerous studies have shown that the first two weeks of standard time in the fall are statistically the worst in terms of the volume of accidents that take place during the late afternoon and early evening hours. You might think that odd a given the fact that the return to standard time means an extra hour of sleep on the day it actually happens, but the increased volume of accidents has nothing to do with the extra hour of sleep.
Research indicates that fewer daylight hours is the culprit. During the winter, more people spend time driving to and from work in the dark. This is especially true the further north you go. And with darkness comes decreased visibility, even in good weather conditions. Throw in bad weather, and you have even more problems.
The relationship between the return to standard time and more late afternoon-early evening accidents is directly attributable to the drastic change in daylight hours. People who had made the evening commute in daylight just two days earlier now find themselves thrust into darkness on the Monday following the return to standard time. It is quite a psychological shock to the system. It generally takes two weeks for most people to get used to making the commute in the dark again.
What You Can Do to Be Safe
Obviously, the professional truck driver cannot stop driving for the first two weeks of November while everyone else catches up to driving in the dark. So what is a driver to do in order to protect him or herself against the elevated risks? We have a number of suggestions.
First, try scheduling your routes so that you are away from heavily congested areas during the evening commute. You will be a lot safer on a remote portion of the interstate than in the middle of a busy expressway that cuts through the center of a major metropolitan region.
When avoiding congested traffic is not possible, another suggestion applies: slow down and practice defensive driving. We know this is a hard thing for professional truck drivers to do given the amount of time they spend on the road. But it is far better to slow down and be defensive than risk having an accident with a tired worker who has not yet gotten used to the dark. And it’s only for a couple of weeks.
Third, be extra vigilant about your pre-trip inspections. From mid-autumn through to the end of winter you should never take to the road unless all your lights are working. When you stop for any reason, check your lights again. The same goes for reflective tape on your trailers. The more you can do to make yourself visible to other drivers, the safer you will be.
Winter Driving Is about Adjusting
Whether it is snow, ice, or fewer daylight hours to work with, the key to safe winter driving is adjusting to current conditions. Here at C.R. England, we do our best to encourage safe driving among all our professionals. We believe that just a little effort to be safe during the winter goes a long way toward preventing accidents and breakdowns. We know that our efforts to be safer make others safer as well.