Fall is here! It’s a wonderful time of year. Crisp, fresh air and cool weather replaces the dog days of summer. The trees start to change into magical colors. Time to break out the scarves and sweaters, sip warm tea and get cozy.
But for drivers, the season brings its own challenges. Changing weather and uneven conditions can make for dangers on the road. Fall has many unique driving conditions that many drivers are unaware of, until it’s too late.
Fortunately, a little awareness goes a long way. Here are our top tips for safe driving in the fall: what to look out for and how to be prepared for anything.
1. Be prepared for unpredictable weather.
Autumn is the time when you’re most likely to experience fast-changing, unpredictable weather conditions.
When you leave the house in the morning, it might be clear and sunny, but by afternoon clouds could roll in and drop nasty cold rain. The temperature might fluctuate by 40 degrees from day to night.
If you’re leaving your home for most of the day, be prepared for anything by keeping extra layers and rain gear in your car.
On the road, be especially careful of water. Puddles can accumulate and don’t have the chance to dry, especially when filled with fallen leaves. This can make for treacherous driving.
Even if everything seems dry now, keep an eye out for water. Go slow and on busy roads, try to drive in the tracks of cars ahead of you, since the road will be the most dry there.
2. Know where there might be ice.
In the mornings, remember that temperatures may have dipped below freezing during the night, leaving areas of black ice where puddles formed during the day.
Morning frost often leaves icy patches on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of the road. Go slow here and brake gently.
3. Beware of leaves.
Autumn leaves are beautiful, but when they start to fall and pile up on the roads, they can become a serious hazard.
Wet leaves coating the road can be as slick as ice. Avoid braking or turning over them if possible. If you have to drive through them, slow down before and only brake lightly over the leaves.
Be aware that leaf piles can hide road lines or markers, as well as potholes or bumps in the road.
Keep your windshield clear of leaves, just as you would clear it of snow before driving off.
Finally, never park your car over a leaf pile as this is a fire hazard.
4. Watch out for animals.
In the fall, many wild animals change their habits to prepare for winter. As drivers, we have to be especially careful and considerate in these months to share the road with them.
Fall is mating season for deer, as well as hunting season. They are on the move now, looking for mates and trying to avoid hunters. More deer collisions happen in autumn than other seasons. In fact, November is the month when drivers are most likely to hit deer on the road.
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. Drive slowly in wooded areas at these times, in a central lane if possible, and keep your high beams on.
Remember that those yellow “watch out for deer signs” aren’t there just for decoration. They are warning you that you are passing through a common deer crossing area.
Also keep in mind that deer travel in groups. If you see one, there’s a good chance more are coming.
If you do happen to hit a deer, please don’t leave it by the side of the road or try to care for it yourself. Contact the police or a local wildlife rehabilitation center. It could save a life.
5. Watch out for kids too.
Fall is also the season when children go back to school. If you’ve been cruising through school zones all summer, now remember to cut your speed and look twice before driving through a crosswalk.
Kids are likely to be less aware of traffic this time of year, after a summer off and in the excitement of the new school year. As a driver, it’s your responsibility to look out for them.
At the beginning and end of the school day, you can expect heavy traffic around the school: buses unloading, parents dropping off their children and teachers driving to work. You might want to factor this into your schedule or plan an alternate route, if you usually drive past a school.
6. Adjust for darkness and glare.
The days are getting shorter. It might still be dark when you head out for your morning commute, and you may come home well after sunset.
Driving in the dark requires more care, even on routes you know well.
In early fall especially, glare can be a problem. The sun stays closer to the horizon, pointing straight into your eyes reflecting at a low angle off buildings and other cars.
Drivers can experience difficulties in the 15-45 minutes after sunrise and before sunset. East-west running roads pose the biggest risk.
Keep sunglasses in your car for these times. A clean windshield will also help reduce the effects of glare from the sun.
7. Take care of your car.
Fall is a great time for car maintenance, before the harsh winter weather kicks in.
Proper tire maintenance is especially important in autumn to keep your car handling well on slippery roads. Correct tire pressure and sufficient tread are essential. If you haven’t had your tires checked in a while, bring them into the shop now.
Fall is a beautiful time of year. It’s great to go driving around and see all the amazing colors of Mother Nature putting on her last show before winter, or to get one last road trip in before it’s too cold.
However, there are quite a few risks and special conditions to keep in mind this season. Most don’t require any special modifications to your car or changes in your daily routine, but extra care and awareness. Better to be cautious than sorry!
Drive slow, respect the conditions and enjoy the season. And if you’re in the market for a new car, contact Capital Motor Cars today. We’re now offering the best lease deals of the season on the top cars of 2018 and 2019.