Fall Driving Tips
Updated: May 1
Falling leaves and rain can combine to create slick road surfaces, sun glare and changing light conditions can make it difficult to see and increased deer activity can add up to some dangerous driving conditions if you are not careful. Below we’ll give you some tips on what to look out for and how to lessen some of the risks brought about by the changes in the season.
Dropping temperatures and their effect on your commute
While it may seem as though you could make your morning commute automatically, it pays to be alert for changing conditions on your route. Falling nighttime temperatures can bring frost to windshields and roads, creating icy patches early morning and refreezing later in the day as temperatures drop again. This freezing/thawing effect also increases the number of potholes on the road, as water contracts and expands in cracks in the pavement, weakening it and eventually leading to a pothole. Because of this, drivers need to be aware of any changing road surface conditions on their route. Bridges and overpasses should be approached with caution, as should areas that receive little or no sunlight, as ice can quickly form and create a dangerous situation. Decelerating or gently braking when approaching bridges and overpasses is a good method to follow to prevent losing control. Also, make sure your windshield and windows are clear of frost before taking to the road. A little extra time in the morning can mean a much safer drive.
Beauty becomes a beast: The danger of wet leaves
The colorful fall leaves on the trees are beautiful – as long as they are on the trees. Wet and covering a curve on a road, not so pretty. Once the leaves start falling, especially due to rain, they can become a serious driving hazard. Wet leaves can be slippery, reduce traction and also cover road markings, making it difficult to determine shoulder and lane widths. When travelling on a road that is covered in wet leaves, increase the distance between your car and the car in front of you and allow additional stopping time. Allowing for more time for your trip is never a bad idea either, as you’ll be less inclined to rush. As a side note, always try to avoid driving through a pile of leaves if possible, as children can sometimes hide in them, and never park on a pile of leaves, as heat from the exhaust can potentially start a fire.
Check your tire pressure
With frequent weather and temperature changes, tires can expand and contract, causing them to lose air pressure. Make sure tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread. While you’re at it, make sure your spare tire is properly inflated and has a good tread on it. You don’t want to be left stranded by a spare tire that is under-inflated or a worn tread. It may not seem important at the moment, but when you are in a situation where it is needed, this checkup will seem invaluable.
Adjusting to lessening sunlight and shorter days
Fall sunrises and sunsets can often be quite beautiful, filled with brilliant sunshine. This bright sun can create a large amount of sun glare, however, making it difficult to see other vehicles or even the road ahead of you. As a precaution, make sure to use sunglasses to cut the glare and lessen this impact. The change of season also reduces the amount of daylight drivers will see. Due to the lessening daylight, drivers need to make sure their windshield wipers and washer fluid, heater, turn signals and lights work properly. Shorter daylight hours mean decreased visibility, making it more difficult to see pedestrians, cyclists and children playing in the late afternoon – drivers need to be alert, especially in the twilight hours. Turning on your lights for your ride home is a good idea, even if it is still light when you leave work. Doing so increases your visibility to other drivers and pedestrians.
Another fall hazard: deer
If you live in an area with a large deer population, you are more likely to encounter a situation where they will run onto the roadway, especially at dawn and dusk, since the fall is one of their more active times of the year. If you see a deer on the side of the road, slow down and approach with caution. Another tip: they often travel in groups, so if one runs out in front of your vehicle, chances are additional deer may follow shortly thereafter.
Autumn can be an outstanding time to take a trip by car to enjoy what the season has to offer and to create some great memories, such as picking pumpkins, attending a football game or simply a drive to enjoy the changing foliage. By following these safety tips and with a little preparation and caution, you’ll be able to reduce the risks as you travel to and from your destinations.