Why fall, not winter, is the country’s most dangerous driving season

Earlier sunsets, wet leaves and daring deer are a couple of reasons why the most dangerous driving season in the country is about to rev up.

Most drivers believe winter comes with the most accidents and collisions. But according to Patrick Olsen, editor-in-chief at Carfax, it’s actually fall.

“Our data scientists looked at millions of crash information from 2022,” he said. “For most of the country, fall is the most dangerous time of year.”

Researchers discovered almost 75% of the nation sees a spike in accidents in autumn, including Maryland, Virginia and D.C. Olsen said dark roads earlier in the day is one of three reasons for the uptick in wrecks.

“Drivers are twice as likely to have an accident in the dark as they are in the daylight,” he told WTOP.

Nationwide, car accidents occur about evenly between daytime and night, but drivers only travel about 25% in the dark, Olsen said.

The second reason: more deer near busy roads as mating season kicks off.

“There are more deer car collisions in fall’s three months than the rest of the year combined,” he said.

Finally, wet leaves on the roads pose greater risks for drivers. Olsen said a car can stop on a dry road in about 80 feet. But on wet leaves, it can take as much as 200 feet to stop.

“For a car on wet leaves, it’s as slippery as ice,” he said.

Olsen said there are a few ways to steer clear of accidents this fall. The list includes performing a full checkup of batteries, tire pressure and windshield fluid before the season begins.

Most importantly, drivers should slow down.

“Frankly, that advice might go year-round,” Olsen said. “Give yourself and the cars around you some extra room and time when you’re driving in the dark.”

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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