INDIANAPOLIS – While most people may assume winter is the most dangerous time to drive, a traffic safety study reveals that fall is the season with the most car crashes across the U.S.

The report by Carfax examined nationwide crash reports and determined that 72% of American drivers, about 170,000,000 of us, live in states with the most accidents during the fall months. Indiana is one of the states that fall into that category.

While even the authors of the study were surprised by the findings, it seems that the changing conditions from summer to fall play a role in the results. Fall means the days are getting shorter. If you’re driving home at 6 p.m., it’s no longer sunny like in July, as it’s getting darker each day. And drivers are still getting used to the changing visibility on their commute, as opposed to being used to it all winter. Falling leaves on the roadway also create a surface as slick as ice when wet. That also follows months of dry summer roadways.

Deer also plays a significant role in the crash statistics. Mating season for deer is between October and December, and nearly half of all deer crashes happen in those three months. In addition, another study shows that deer-related accidents spiked 16% in the week after the end of daylight saving time because of the jump to an earlier sunset.

Since speed is a factor in almost every crash, experts recommend slowing down more than usual as we get into the fall season.

You can also prepare your car for fall and winter by checking your vehicle’s battery, wiper blades, and fluid. Some people will switch to winter tires. Colder weather can harden the rubber on normal tires and affect traction. Winter tires have special rubber compounds that resist that. That may not be necessary here in Indiana compared to colder parts of the country, but it might be something to consider.

The first step in staying safe is simply being aware of the changing conditions and extra risk the season brings.