As a runner, the fall presents its challenges. First, the colder temperatures make staying in bed a desirable option. But, accountability is why I have a running buddy. And, once running buddy and I are out for our run, the low lighting can be a dangerous issue. We take precautions to be visible, such as reflective vests and headlamps. We’ve also noted vulnerabilities of our routes: blind curves, dogs, tricky road crossings and the area near a golf course where it is possible to encounter a hissing raccoon. We recognize that despite our best efforts, there is always risk.
As with an early morning or late afternoon runner or dog walker, fall and winter lighting conditions pose risk to a company’s fleet and employees. The eye may not see hazards as readily in low light conditions. Drivers may be unable to see well due to the sun’s glare being lower on the horizon at prime commuting hours. Your vehicles may be less visible to other drivers. Wildlife is more active at dusk and dawn (We encountered a herd of five deer frozen in our headlamps on a recent outing. And, they were close. Very close.). Darker conditions may also contribute to injuries such as slips and falls or contribute to conditions where black ice may form.
The following tips may help you raise awareness among your drivers and employees and may help improve safety regarding lighting challenges:
- Remind drivers to use their headlights during all conditions which result in less than optimal light such as dusk, dawn, rain and excessive cloud cover. This not only aids your driver, but it helps others see your vehicle.
- Consider your Vehicle Condition Report (VCR) for Commercial Vehicles; provide adequate lighting for a quality pre-trip inspection. Be sure to check all lights and reflective markings, making repairs before operating the truck. Your Safety Measurement Score (SMS) under DOT may also benefit.
- Remember to not overdrive headlights. This means a driver should be able to stop within the distance illuminated by the headlights. It is far safer to react in a calm and controlled manner than to suddenly swerve, drop onto a shoulder, or abruptly brake.
- Recall that stopping distance is a factor of size and speed, and must take the following three factors into account:
- Perception Distance, which is the distance traveled during the time it takes for a driver to see and process a hazard. This is approximately .5-.75 second in the best of conditions, and could be longer in poor light. At 60 miles per hour, this equates to 44-66 feet.
- Reaction Distance, which is the distance traveled during the time it takes for the driver to choose and execute a reaction. This is generally another .75 second for the most alert and capable, adding another estimated 66 feet at 60 MPH.
- Braking Distance, which is the distance traveled between applying the brakes and coming to a complete stop. For a motor vehicle at 60 MPH, this could be approximately 200 feet for a mid-size car or 340 feet for the average tractor trailer.
- The older we get, the more light we need to see accurately, and the longer it takes our eyes to adjust to the dark or sudden changes in light.
- Keep windshields clean, items off of dashboards and lights and wipers in good working order. Don’t start driving until your defroster has done its job and your windshield is frost free.
- Objectively survey your business, taking note of areas which may pose vulnerabilities to employees and visitors. Install more lighting in those areas and consider using a timer to assure they are on during these hours of low lighting.
Encourage employees with routes to be familiar with their stops in daytime conditions. And, if safety is compromised by early morning or late day deliveries due to lighting conditions, consider altering the route or discussing the situation with your customer. Remind drivers of the hazards of low lighting conditions and to look out for pedestrians and wildlife. Remember, not all pedestrians are diligent about wearing reflective gear, bright colored clothing and lights. Incidentally, I have yet to see a deer outfitted in a reflective vest!
Have a safe fall and winter but remember that we are no longer on summer time with long days and plenty of light. Acadia’s Loss Control department can provide your business with great resources to help you prepare for the change in seasons. Stay wary of low light conditions as we move from autumn to winter, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying this wonderful time of year. Get out there and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage!
Acadia Insurance is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness.