Avoiding the Most Dangerous Times to Drive

There are times and situations that tax the skills of even the most experienced drivers, let alone the abilities of younger drivers. Staying safe on the road means knowing how to navigate these instances. Learn more about the most hazardous times to drive and how you can keep you and your passengers protected.

Navigating Rush Hour

Rush hour traffic tests driver skills regardless of age. You need quick reactions in start-and-stop traffic and patience in traffic jams. The National Safety Council (NSC) emphasizes that crowded roads and drivers eager to get home make the evening rush hour a dangerous time to drive. In the winter, darkness quickly descends during rush hour. This adds to the dangers associated with stop-and-go traffic. Better navigate rush hour traffic by: 

  • Staying alert.

  • Being patient.

  • Eliminating distractions in your vehicle.

  • Avoiding aggressive drivers.

  • Knowing your route in advance.

If you must drive during rush hour, practice your defensive driving skills. Avoid quick, impulsive lane changes. Know your route to avoid last-second exits. Stay far away from aggressive and erratic drivers. Avoid getting pinned in by semis or other large trucks. Whenever possible, choose a lane that gives you an escape. Stay in a lane next to a wide shoulder, for example.  

Another Kind of Rush Hour

There’s another kind of “rush hour” to think about. These are the times when animals are more likely to be darting across the road. Deer collisions are the most common by far. In the top 10 states for deer collisions, there's a better than one in 80 chance of a deer claim in a given year. Learn about their habits for increased safety. First, pay close attention whenever you see an animal crossing sign. Second, note when they’re most likely to be on the move — that’s often between 6 to 9 p.m. when visibility is decreasing.  

If you must drive when deer are active, American Family Insurance spokesperson Erin Johansen reminds you to “always wear your seatbelt.” Johansen notes that “most people injured in deer collisions did not buckle up.”

Newer vehicle safety features do help. However, this doesn’t always help younger drivers who drive older models. Even those who do have automatic emergency braking should not be lulled into a false sense of security. According to Consumer Reports, such systems sometimes detect pedestrians better than large animals. 

Impaired Drivers

Most younger drivers get it — drinking and driving do not mix. The consequences of a single DWI are daunting or even life-altering. However, it’s the other driver you can’t control. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the chance of an encounter with an impaired driver. Avoid driving in the “wee hours,” particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. 

When you must drive late at night, practice defensive driving. It’s vital to keep your eyes on the road. You want to be on the lookout for dangers in oncoming traffic and cross-traffic. Impaired drivers do erratic and dangerous things. Their vehicles may stray across the centerline. They may pass other vehicles when it is not safe to do so. 

Slippery Roads

It’s also a dangerous time to drive any time the roads are slippery. Too many drivers fail to respect the severity of harsh weather conditions. In the winter, they head out in freezing rain and heavy snow. In the warm summer months, they fail to pull over in torrential rainstorms. Or, they drive too fast for conditions. 

Night Driving

Even in the best of conditions, visibility is less at night. Improve visibility by using your high-beams when other cars are not present. Also, outfit your vehicle with headlamps engineered for better illumination. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) discusses the problem of inadequate illumination. When the IIHS evaluated 95 headlight systems, it only gave two a good rating. If your headlights are inadequate, replace them with LED or xenon (HID) designs. 

Fatigue: Danger at All Times

A well-rested, alert driver can better tackle challenges at any time of day or night. By contrast, driving when fatigued makes every time a dangerous time to drive. It takes discipline and maturity to stay off the road when you’re too tired or wiped out. Fatigue happens for many reasons. Sleep deprivation is often a part of a younger driver's life. There's that late night out with friends or studying for finals well into the night. Don't get behind the wheel when fatigued. At all times, well-rested motorists are safer drivers.

Learn More in a Defensive Driving Course

If you want to learn more about how to drive in hazardous situations, consider taking a defensive driving course. While many people think defensive driving is for drivers in trouble with the law, it's actually a thorough curriculum that teaches you how to deal with the unexpected.