It seems about this time every year — give or take a few weeks — Mother Nature launches a warning shot toward northern Michigan motorists.

It isn’t subtle, nor is it gradual.

It’s a wintry reminder that, even if the full force of the Mitten winter doesn’t arrive for a few more weeks, it’s time to tap the brakes. And there’s no doubt plenty of our neighbors on the road struggle to yield to those first snow- flakes.

We watch every year as Subarus slide, Chevys careen, Fords flop and Dodges, well they don’t dodge so well. That first snow, usually followed by icy drizzle, seems to take just about everyone by surprise. Dozens land in the ditch and a fleet of tow truck drivers begin their annual meander into the danger zone.

Maybe this year will be a little different. Maybe fewer commuters during our COVID-19 slowdown will lead to fewer wrecks. Maybe this year’s stay-at-home holiday routine will lead to fewer ditch days for drivers.

At least we hope all those maybes will come to fruition.

Grand Traverse County alone records more than 3,500 traffic crashes each year, many of them during the winter months. And data analysts repeatedly rank Michigan at or near the top of listings of winter traffic crash fatality rates.

Despite fewer cars on the road traveling during parts of this year because of work-from-home efforts and stay-at-home orders, more people had been killed in crashes in Michigan by mid-September than by the same time a year before. That’s not an encouraging trend as we nudge into the most dangerous driving season in our state.

So, we plan to pump the brakes a little to make way for winter’s arrival.

And we hope you do the same, too.

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