Autumn is one of the prettiest times of the year. Yet, the unpredictable weather, decreasing daylight and colorful fall foliage are a clear reminder that drivers need to be prepared for the driving hazards that the new season brings.
In fall, a bright, sunny afternoon can turn rainy and cold in a snap. The first few minutes of rainfall on dry pavement are particularly hazardous. Oil, dust, dirt and other debris collect on the roadways, and when mixed with moisture, the roads can become as slick as ice. Heavy rains can create pools of water, and driving through them can compromise driving control. Slow down, increase following distance, and steer clear of standing water and large puddles.
Frost and Ice
As overnight temperatures dip toward freezing, morning frost can leave icy patches on bridges, overpasses and shaded spots on the road. Slow down and be especially cautious when approaching these areas.
The colder temperatures of autumn can give rise to fog, which can severely limit visibility and change your perception of distance. When driving through fog, slow down and stay well behind the vehicles ahead of you to ensure enough reaction time and stopping distance.
Autumn also heralds the arrival of shorter days and longer nights. Switch on your headlamps as soon as you notice a reduction in visibility to increase your ability to see and your chances of being seen, and stay extra alert for pedestrians and bicyclists.
What’s more, shorter days and longer nights can throw off our body’s internal clock, meaning an increase in feelings of weariness or fatigue that may be experienced while driving. Adjust your sleep schedule to help ensure sure you are properly rested before driving.
At this time of year, the intense sun glare during sunrise and sunset can blind drivers. When driving into the sun, reduce your speed and increase your following distance. Lower your vehicle’s visors and wear quality sunglasses with polarized lenses to help block some of the reflected light. In addition, know your route before leaving to help avoid distraction from sun glare or decreasing daylight.
While the pretty hues of autumn are certainly beautiful, the red, orange and yellow colors of traffic signs are less distinct against similar fall colors. Keep your windshield clean, inside and out, and stay vigilant.
Patches of fallen leaves can retain large amounts of water and make braking, steering and stopping difficult. Slow down and avoid hard accelerations, heavy braking or sudden turns on leaf-covered roadways. Watch for accumulated leaves, which can obscure curbs, street markings, potholes and other road hazards.
Of course, leaves may not be the only thing on the road. Collected piles of leaves are also an inviting place for children to play and hide. Avoid driving through leaf piles. Stay alert, particularly during twilight hours, and use caution going around turns and where children are playing.
The fall season brings an increase in animal activity. To help avoid a collision, scan the roadway and roadsides for wildlife, and pay attention to animal crossing signs. Be extra vigilant during dusk and dawn when animals are most active, and visibility is limited.
One More Tip
One of your best defenses against fall’s driving challenges is to make sure that your vehicle is up to the task. Perform a pre-trip inspection, as required by federal regulations, paying particular attention to your wiper blades, lights, and brakes. Also, check the tire pressure routinely. With frequent temperature changes, tires will expand and contract, which may cause them to lose air.
Autumn is fraught with driving hazards, but by knowing what to look for and using these smart driving tips can help keep you, and others, safe on the road all season long.