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Driver Lifestyles

Fall Delights and Dangers

By Sandy Long, staff writer
Posted Oct 11th 2012 10:00AM

Everyone looks forward to fall: football season starts, the weather cools down and summer’s shades of green slowly change to gold, red and brown.   On the home front, mothers start getting out heavier clothing for themselves, their husbands and children.   Kids are thinking of what they are going to dress up as for Halloween and perhaps the ‘tricks’ they will pull.   For those who travel for a living on the highways and byways of the country, chains are hung in preparation for the first snow in the mountains and plans to get vehicles in shape for the frigid weather to come are afoot.   Most folks look forward to taking a drive to see the glorious show that Mother Nature puts on in the fall.

Ah yes, the glorious fall…

…and the not so glorious fall.   Add a little water to those beautiful fallen leaves on the roadway and if one hits the patch just right, you can end up in the ditch in a heartbeat.   Moisture + fallen leaves = slick road.   Slow down if you see leaves on the road and it has recently rained.  

Moisture enters in again when fog sets in, and it does set in during the fall as the earth cools.   If the temperatures drop to just freezing, ice fog forms on the equipment and on the roadways. Slow down.   A good way to tell if you are in freezing fog, if you do not have an outside thermometer on your truck, is to look at the back of your mirrors; ice will form quickly there if the temperature goes to freezing or below.   If you have been running in ice fog, be especially careful getting out of your truck; outside grab handles and steps can become quickly ice coated.

You have surely noticed those signs even down south that say, ‘bridge freezes before pavement’.   This is due to cold air being on both top and under a bridge surface causing it to cool faster than pavement.   Add moisture, light rain or fog, and black ice can develop.   Take your foot off the accelerator and let your vehicle coast across possible icy bridges. If you must accelerate, do it slowly, do not apply your brakes and only press back on the accelerator after crossing the bridge.  Do not run your cruise during possible icy conditions.

Pumpkins are a great tradition during the fall.   They are seen as decorations in front of houses and stacked up for sale everywhere.   There is something about pumpkins though that attracts those young people who are looking for mischief to get into.   There is just something about how a pumpkin goes SPLAT when it drops on the ground or a passing vehicle.

Watch the overpasses for anyone lurking around up there. Hit your bright lights if possible as you approach an overpass.   At night, if the traffic allows, if you are approaching an overpass, and are in the right lane, just as you get to the overpass, move your vehicle into the left lane; it spoils their aim.   A ten-pound pumpkin dropped from an overpass that hits your windshield can kill you or your passengers; the surprise of it can make you wreck.   Other things to watch overpasses for are rocks or other things dropped, hard objects hung off fishing line to hit your windshield and even a scarecrow or two.

Wildlife are migrating towards their winter areas and deer hunting season has started.   Deer season runs from dawn to dusk; this makes the deer move more at night.   Do not forget the moose and elk too that move down from the high mountains to lower pastures.   Never blow an air horn at a moose. There have been many reports of trucks being charged at and hit by a moose after a driver tootles the horn at them.   2500 pound charging animal hitting a truck running 55 mph, something is going to give and moose have hard heads.

Birds and fowl of all types migrate during the fall.   While those can be an issue at any time of the year, fall combines smaller flocks.   Remember what happens if you are hit in the windshield by a ten pound pumpkin?   A 20-pound goose or swan can do the same thing: kill or injure you.   Smaller birds can damage mirrors and take out cab running lights.

Most likely, the most dangerous thing about the fall is twofold: folk out looking at fall colors and snowbirds (people who go south for the winter).   The folk who go out to look at fall colors are subject to dart over to the shoulder to take photos then dart back into traffic.   Furthermore, they are distracted more than usual and may just not see you or an exit they want.   It seems too that older folk are more likely to go out and wander around seeing the leaves; some may rarely get out onto the highway.   Give them a big berth.

Snowbirds come in all types of vehicles; large motor homes pulling another trailer or car, vehicles pulling camper trailers and some just in their cars, SUV or pick up.   These migraters are usually moving south too, hence the ‘snowbird’ moniker, going to RV parks throughout the south.   No matter how large the vehicle, and huge mega bus sized motor homes have been sighted pulling not only a storage trailer behind, but a car or boat too, these folk carry only their car licenses to drive, they are not trained or required to be trained, to drive these behemoths.

Snowbirds take up available truck parking and clog the interstate systems.   Many drive under the speed limit, while the same amount passes everything in sight.   Many are elderly folk who only drive those types of vehicles twice a year, down south in fall, up north in spring.   While your annoyance levels may rise, watch for those snowbirds and give them wide berth.   Also watch for them broken down on the shoulders; they have a tendency not to pay close attention to other traffic lanes and may step too close to the fog line if not into the travel lane.   If you see they are elderly and are looking bewildered, and if you have time to stop, stop behind them and assist or at least dial 911 and report them broken down so law enforcement can help.

There are other dangers in the fall: fans that have drunk too much at football games and tailgate parties, kids out after dark and perhaps in costume if it is near Halloween and drivers adjusting to the lack of daylight who might be grumpy or drowsy.   You too might become distracted by the glorious reflection of the bluff of colorful trees in the calm lake or river as you cross a bridge; after all, it is fall with all of its delights and dangers.


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