Tens of millions of U.S. drivers are heading directly into Danger Season---the time when auto crashes occur most often where they live, CARFAX data shows.
Although many might assume winter is the most accident-prone season, more than 72% of U.S. drivers---roughly 170 million---live in states where autumn is the peak season for accident damage, CARFAX said in a news release.
Why does autumn have so many accidents? Experts call out these reasons:
- Diminishing daylight: Fall means shorter days, and that means more driving in the dark, when drivers are twice as likely to have an accident as in daylight. Half of U.S. accidents happen in the dark, but those hours account for only 25% of travel.
- Slick surfaces: Wet leaves brought down by storms can be as slippery as ice. Braking on wet leaves can make a car travel more than twice as far as braking on a dry road.
- Deer danger: Mating season for deer runs from October through December, and nearly half of deer crashes nationwide happen in just those three months. In addition, one study notes that deer-car collisions spike 16% in the week after the end of Daylight Saving Time in November because of the jump to an earlier sunset.
"CARFAX has the most accident and damage information, and sometimes that data can be surprising," said Faisal Hasan, general manager for data at CARFAX. "The change of seasons is a good time for drivers to see if any new recalls have been issued for their car." Consumers can check on unfixed recalls, for free, at carfax.com/recall.
That doesn't mean winter isn't dangerous: 23% of drivers live in states where winter is worst for accidents. Those states are California, Florida, New Jersey, Louisiana and Vermont, and they have a combined 54 million drivers.
A few states stand out because they don't follow these patterns: For drivers in Nebraska and Oklahoma, spring is the most dangerous season, and New Mexico drivers have the most accidents in summer.
Drivers can prepare themselves by taking these steps:
- Slow down: Speed is often a key factor in accidents in any season, and inclement situations make driving even more dangerous. Give other drivers---and yourself---space. That will give you a little extra time to handle sudden developments.
- Check tire pressure: Sudden temp drops make tires lose air quickly. Don't wait for a Tire Pressure Monitoring System alert; check tire pressure monthly.
- Put on winter tires: Cold weather can harden the rubber in standard tires, hurting traction. If you live in a frigid area, winter tires with special rubber compounds and tread patterns may be wise.
- Check your car's battery: Cold weather reduces a battery's power, and it could fail. If your mechanic finds that your battery is weak, have a new one installed.
- Check wiper fluid level: Slush from the road can be kicked up onto your windshield, making it hard to see. Carry an extra gallon in cold-weather months.
- Check wiper blades: If the rubber has cracked, your wipers may leave streaks. Wipe them down with Windex. If that doesn't work, install new blades.
- Use CARFAX Car Care to track your car's service history: Make sure you get alerts for oil changes, brake pad replacement or tire treadwear. And get it all for free.
- Pack a winter survival kit: Be ready if you wind up stranded. A kit should have water, a blanket, an ice scraper, durable food items, road flares, a phone charger, a flashlight and first-aid supplies. Keep this kit in the car at all times.