Every responsible driver wants to practice safety on the road all year round. But with changing seasons comes new driving hazards that can leave even experienced drivers at a greater risk for accidents and vehicle damage.
As summer comes to a close and the leaves begin to change color, it’s important to prepare for changing driving conditions. That’s why we’ve created a comprehensive autumn driving guide to help you navigate the transition and keep you safe on the road no matter the time of year.
Keep reading to learn more about the seasonal driving hazards you should be aware of and get some helpful fall driving safety tips!
Colder, wetter weather is one of the most obvious changes during the fall, especially in the PNW. Rainfall decreases visibility, making it harder to see other cars, pedestrians, and road hazards like potholes. Additionally, slippery roads can actually affect the functionality of your car by decreasing tire traction, making it more difficult to stay in control of your vehicle.
When it’s raining, be sure to drive slower and leave more space between you and other cars. Always remember to turn on your headlights. It’s also important to practice greater caution when braking, as the damp roads are more likely to cause you to slide. Additionally, it’s a good idea to get your windshield wipers checked and replaced to make sure they’re in working condition.
It’s also worth preparing for potential snowfall or hail. While you may think of these as winter driving hazards, weather can be unpredictable and it’s important to be ready in case you get caught in treacherous weather conditions. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that hail damage is most common in the spring months and can occur during any season.
Fog & Frost
Another major visibility concern for autumn driving is fog. While those cool, misty mornings can be beautiful, it also makes driving far more dangerous. Be sure to turn on your low-beam headlights. This will cast a wide and low light across the road and make you more visible to other cars. Many vehicles even have special fog lights that can be used in conjunction with your regular headlights. While you might be tempted to turn on your brights, this will actually cause your lights to reflect the fog and decrease visibility even further.
Rapid drops in temperatures can also freeze any moisture on the road, leaving frost in its place. Be sure to slow down and be aware of particularly slippery roads – especially in the morning.
Low Tire Pressure
Changing temperatures can have a major effect on your tire pressure. In fact, even a ten-degree drop in temperature can decrease your tire pressure by as much as two pounds per square inch. When you notice the air getting chillier, it’s a good idea to check the air pressure in your tires and adjust them before getting on the road. You can either do this yourself with a pressure gauge or you can take it to a mechanic.
Animals in the Road
One of the most commonly forgotten fall driving safety tips is to keep an eye out for pets and wildlife on the roads. Unfortunately, animal strikes are common in the autumn. In fact, you’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal in November than you are in August.
Many animals, particularly deer, are more active during these months, so it’s important to pay attention to signs warning of animal crossing, especially when visibility is low.
Fewer Daylight Hours
Throughout the fall season, we can expect to see a significant change in the amount of hours of daylight each day. It’s no mystery why it’s more dangerous to drive at night rather than during the day.
Not only is it much harder to see, but you’re also more likely to encounter reckless and potentially intoxicated drivers. Despite nighttime accounting for only 25% of our driving time, it’s estimated that 50% of car accidents occur after the sun goes down. Be aware of darkness both at the beginning and end of the day, always remember to use your headlights, and practice extra caution at night.
While falling autumn leaves can be beautiful, they can also be dangerous when driving. A layer of leaves over the road can cover hazards and debris and, when paired with moisture, slippery leaves reduce tire traction and cause sliding. Be cautious when driving over leaves and try to regularly remove leaf build-up on your driveway.
Kids returning to school has a big impact on fall driving. Not only are kids of all ages going to be crossing the road (sometimes unexpectedly), but school zones and bus stops cause slower traffic, which can increase frustration and the likelihood of a collision with a pedestrian or another vehicle.
Here are a few school-zone safety tips to follow this autumn when school is back in session:
- Always look out for school-zone signs, especially in low-visibility conditions.
- Adhere to speed limits near schools.
- Never pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing.
- Keep an eye out for children crossing the road.
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No one wants to get into an accident. But collisions can happen to even the safest and most experienced drivers.
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