The month of November ushers in shorter days and colder temperatures, which can have a hazardous impact on Pennsylvania roads. As the days get shorter, Pennsylvania drivers spend more time on the road in the dark, which can impact drivers’ ability to judge roadway hazards and to react in time to prevent a crash.
This becomes especially dangerous when combined with speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving.
Shorter days can cause visibility problems
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), average visibility is 250 feet without using high-beams and 500 feet with high-beams. However, high-beams can pose visibility problems with other drivers if they are left on.
Shorter days can also affect drivers’ circadian rhythm, the body’s natural clock that programs sleepiness and wakefulness. During the dark hours, a hormone called melatonin is released, which can cause drivers to become increasingly drowsy behind the wheel.
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll on drowsy driving:
- 60 percent of drivers have driven while drowsy.
- Another 37 percent admitted to falling asleep while driving, 13 percent of whom have done so at least once a month.
- Four percent of drivers who admitted to falling asleep at the wheel have caused a traffic accident.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) identifies common hazards drivers face during November:
- Fallen leaves: As roads become covered with leaves, especially when wet, they can create slippery road conditions. Additionally, fallen leaves can cover traffic lines and other markings in the pavement, which can make it difficult for drivers to navigate the road.
- Fog: Thick fog often creates visibility problems for drivers. Drivers are urged to reduce their speed and use low beam headlights.
- Sun glare: During sunrise and sunset, sun glare can be nearly blinding for drivers.
- Frost and icy conditions: As the temperature drops significantly overnight, ice and frost can develop. Some spots can be slippery and difficult to detect. PennDOT urges drivers to use caution when approaching bridges, overpasses and heavily shaded areas.
During this time of year, drivers need to maintain a safe speed, stay attentive, fully engaged and avoid tailgating. When drivers fail to uphold their duty of care on Pennsylvania roadways, they can be held accountable for their negligence. Seasonal conditions brought about by autumn are not an excuse.