Fall is a great time of the year. Depending on where you live, the changes can be minimal or quite dramatic. Fall in the Northeast brings brilliant colors as the leaves change their appearance. The Northwest is preparing for the return of the rainy season. In most areas the temperature begins to fall from those summer highs and in some areas night time freezing temperatures occur. Along with the beauty of fall comes road conditions that can be a challenge to safe driving. Take note of the tips in this article and you can become a safer fall driver.
Fall leaves on a road dramatically change how cars handle, especially when combined with a wet surface.
Check out these 6 fall driving tips:
- Prepare for more night driving. Along with the fall comes shorter hours of daylight and hence more hours of darkness. Check your headlighs and make sure they are in good working order and clean. Dirty headlights can cut visibility and make night driving more dangerous. Keep your windshield clean, both inside and out as a dirty windshield will also cut visibility at night. Fall is a good time to have that regular eye exam – especially if it results in a new eyeglass prescription.
- Don’t stare at oncoming headlights. It is very easy to get “transfixed” by oncoming headlights – watch a deer in the road at night. Keep your focus straight ahead in your lane and use your peripheral vision to see what’s happening with oncoming traffic. If you do move your focus to opposing traffic, only scan briefly and bring your focus back to your lane quickly.
- Less teen driving time. In many states, teens drive with some form of restricted license. This license is commonly referred to as a “graduated drivers license”, “junior operator’s license”, etc. and one of the restrictions of the license is to limit driving during hours of darkness. The restrictions vary for each state and these should have been covered in online drivers ed. The information is also available in your state’s drivers manual. Parents should be prepared for evening teen transportation as daytime hours become limited and school activites begin in the fall.
- Watch our for leaves. In many parts of the country, leaves begin to cover roads and limit the ability of a car to stop and corner. When leaves are present on the road, prepare for less traction. Go slower around turns and leave more room when slowing or stopping. In parts of the country where connifers are present, pine needles can cause the same traction issues as leaves.
- More wet roads. Another attribute of fall is increased rain and along with the rain come wet roads. Wet roads limit traction in much the same was as leaves can and similar precautions should be heeded. However, one of the most dangerous road conditions is wet leaves on the roads. This combination can be very dangerous and has been the cause of many a crash. Driving more slowly and leaving a greater amount of room is required for this situation. Also, be particularly careful when going down steep declines as road grip can approach that of ice, which is very slippery indeed.
- Black ice. Along with the oncoming of fall comes dropping temperatures. And they quickly can drop below freezing which can result in dreaded “black ice”. This road condition is one of the most treacherous and produces extremely unsafe driving conditions. Black ice is a thin layer of ice that has formed on the road surface, which is almost undetectable. It most often occurs on bridge surfaces and in shady areas, so be particularly careful when approaching those areas. If you find yourself driving on black ice, do not make sudden moves. Carefully slow down by easing off the accelerator and do not apply brakes unless absolutely necessary. Minimize steering wheel movements. The most important item to remember on black ice is to perform no abrupt movements and try to minimize anything that requires the car to make a change in direction or speed.
While fall is a beautiful season and brings with it beautiful colors, crisp cool air, and school activities please heed the previous collection of tips and your fall driving time wil be much safer and less stressful.