Fall brings cool, crisp weather, and beautiful colors, but it also brings its share of driving hazards. Autumn is damp and foggy in many places and temperatures tend to drop at night. These seasonal changes can impact road conditions.
Here’s what you need to know to stay safe when driving this fall.
Tip #1: Be aware of changing light patterns during shorter fall days.
Fall days naturally are shorter. The sun moves closer to the horizon, creating increased glare during sunrise and sunset hours. Once we end Daylight Savings Time on November 7, it will get darker earlier in the evening. “While we do only one-quarter of our driving at night, 50% of traffic deaths happen at night,” according to the National Safety Council. That’s because depth perception, peripheral vision, and color recognition are reduced in the dark.
- Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car for times when the sun’s blinding glare can obstruct your vision. In the fall, this often happens during morning and evening rush hour.
- Keep your windshield clean so that dirt streaks don’t contribute to the glare.
- Be especially careful driving in neighborhoods during dusk or dawn hours. The low light can make it harder to see children playing or people walking their dogs.
- At night, the glare of approaching headlights can be blinding. Do not wear sunglasses as they can obstruct your vision at night. The best strategy is to avoid looking directly into the lights of oncoming traffic. Glance toward the right and look for the white painted road line.
Tip #2: Slow down for leaves, which can make roads hazardous.
Autumn leaves are beautiful to behold but they’re also dangerous. Driving on wet leaves is as slippery as driving on ice. Leaves may be slippery when wet but If temperatures fall, those wet leaves actually become icy. Even dry leaves are dangerous. They can reduce traction and cause skidding. They can cover up road markings and potholes.
- Clean leaves off your windshield so they don’t get stuck in your wiper blades and block your vision.
- When driving on roads with leaves, slow down. Imagine hidden potholes under the leaves, which you would not want to hit at higher speeds.
- Give yourself plenty of distance between yourself and the car in front to avoid braking suddenly on a slippery surface.
- This is prime time for leaf gazing. Be aware that some drivers will have their eyes on the colorful fall foliage, rather than focusing on the road.
- Never drive through a leaf pile. Children love to jump and hide there.
- Do not park over a pile of leaves. It could create a fire hazard from the heat in your exhaust system.
Tip #3: Take care to see, and be seen, in fog.
Chilly fall mornings can create foggy conditions which reduce your visibility and the perception of distance when driving. You can take measures to see and be seen in fog.
- Keep your headlights on, even during the daytime in fog. Use fog lights if you have them. They are designed to shine low along the road.
- Avoid using your high beams. They do not work well in dense fog and will create a glare, making it harder for you to see.
- Keep moving at a safe speed, but put lots of distance between yourself and other drivers.
- Reduce distractions so you can focus completely on the road.
- Use your windshield wipers and defroster to keep your glass clear. Set your defroster to warm to help dry out any moisture.
- If you need to, pull over to a safe spot. However, you will want to turn off your lights. In a fog, other drivers may see lights and think you are in a traffic lane. That could cause a collision.
Tip #4: Slow down on bridges and overpasses, which can freeze before roads.
As overnight temperatures drop below freezing, you can expect morning frost. That frost can impact your commute.
Tip #5: Be alert for deer at dawn and dusk.
Fall is breeding season for deer. That means you may see them more as they travel to find mates. You are more likely to hit a deer in November than at any other time of year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. An adult deer can range from 150 to 300 pounds, so hitting a deer can cause significant damage to your car as well as kill the animal.
- Deer are most active during dusk and dawn. Be watchful of the side of the road movement during those times, especially in areas where there are deer crossing signs.
- Deer travel in groups. If you see one cross the road, chances are there are others following.
- If you see a deer, avoid swerving. Try to come to a controlled stop and wait for the animal to pass by. Put on your hazard lights to alert other drivers that you are stopped.
Tip #6: Make sure your vehicle is in good working order.
Keeping your vehicle in top condition will help you navigate the challenges of fall driving more easily.
- Check your vehicle’s headlights, turn signals, and tail lights to make sure they are working. Make sure your headlights are aligned.
- Check your car’s wipers and replace the blades if they are showing signs of wear.
- Check your car’s heating system to make sure it’s working.
- Make sure your tires have enough tread and are inflated. As temperatures rise and fall, your car tires may expand and contract. This causes loss of air pressure. You will want your tires to be inflated to manufacturer specifications. Check your owner’s manual.
- Finally, make sure you have the proper car insurance. Coverage will give you peace of mind should anything happen.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.
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