Autumn is one of the prettiest times of the year, but it presents a distinct set of challenges for drivers. Here are some key hazards associated with autumn driving and tips to help navigate them safely:
In autumn, sunny weather can quickly turn rainy and cold. The first few minutes of rainfall on dry pavement are particularly hazardous because the rainwater mixes with accumulated oil, dirt and other debris on the road surface, creating slippery conditions. Heavy rains can create pools of water, and driving through them can compromise vehicle control. Slow down, increase your following distance and avoid standing water.
Frost and Ice
Freezing temperatures create morning frost and icy patches, especially on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas. Reduce your speed and be particularly vigilant when approaching these areas. In addition to exercising caution during autumn driving, be sure to clear your vehicle’s windows of frost before heading out.
Colder fall temperatures can cause fog, limiting visibility and altering your perception of distance. When driving through fog, slow down and maintain ample distance from other vehicles to ensure enough reaction time and stopping distance.
Autumn also heralds the arrival of shorter days and longer nights. Turn on your headlamps as soon as you notice a reduction in visibility to increase your ability to see and your chances of being seen, and stay extra alert for pedestrians and cyclists.
What’s more, shorter days and longer nights can throw off the body’s internal clock, leading to an increased likelihood of driver fatigue. Adjust your sleep schedule to help ensure sure you are properly rested before driving.
The angle of the sun during fall can create blinding glare, especially during sunrise and sunset. To reduce glare’s impact, slow down, increase your following distance, use your vehicle’s visors, and wear polarized sunglasses. Also, adjust your route or departure time, whenever possible, to avoid driving directly into the sun during its most intense periods.
Although autumn's hues are beautiful, the red, orange and yellow colors of traffic signs become less distinct amid similar fall shades. Keep your windshield clean, inside and out, and remain vigilant.
Patches of wet fallen leaves can hinder braking, steering and stopping. Slow down and avoid sudden maneuvers on leaf-covered roadways. Watch for leaves obscuring curbs, street markings, potholes, and other hazards.
Collected piles of leaves are also an inviting place for children to play and hide. Stay alert, particularly during twilight hours, and use caution going around turns and where children are playing.
Autumn brings an increase in animal activity. Scan the roadway and roadsides for wildlife, and heed animal crossing signs. Be extra cautious during dusk and dawn when animals are most active and visibility is limited.
One More Tip
One of your best defenses against the challenges of autumn driving is to ensure your vehicle is up to the task. Perform a pre-trip inspection, as required by federal regulations, paying particular attention to wipers, lights and brakes. Routinely check tire pressure as the season's temperature fluctuations can cause tires to expand and contract, potentially leading to air loss.
Autumn driving is fraught with challenges. However, staying aware of these hazards and following these autumn driving tips can help you safely navigate the nation’s roadways all season long.