Fall Driving Conditions, Car Care and Maintenance Tips
The change of season from summer to fall, and eventually to winter, brings with it many new challenges for drivers. From dropping temperatures to shorter days, drivers need to be prepared to handle the changing environmental and road conditions. Proper preparation of the vehicle and the driver is necessary to handle these changing factors and to make this a safe and smooth transition.
The Sun is Lower
Because the days become shorter, the sun hangs lower in the mornings and evenings, especially during daily commute times. This can cause an increase in glare off the windshield and mirrors, making driving especially problematic in busy traffic.
Luckily, there are a few things that will improve visibility, such as:
- Wearing a pair of quality sunglasses that will block out much of the glare
- Keeping the windshield free of dirt, dust and debris
- Repairing the windshield if it has pits or scratches in it that can reflect the light or make it difficult to see
These simple changes can make a great deal of difference when driving into direct sunlight.
The Roads are Wet Once Again
Many areas of the country see an increase in rainfall during fall months, followed closely by ice, sleet, and snow. These changes in precipitation mean that the roads will become wet, making driving more difficult and more dangerous.
Drivers should be careful about driving through puddles because their depth could be deceiving. A seemingly shallow puddle could be much deeper, such as water covering a pothole, and could damage the wheels and the undercarriage of the vehicle. Driving through deep standing water can also lead to dangerous hydroplaning in which the driver loses control of the vehicle as it spins through the water. Finally, wet leaves or branches could be very slippery on the roadways, so drivers should be careful either to avoid these objects or to slow down upon approach.
It is also important for drivers to remember that the roads themselves are not the only dangerous conditions in wet weather. During heavy downpours, visibility can be drastically reduced due to the rain and potential fog. Drivers should keep their headlights on during storms, even during the day. This will not only help them see better, but it will also allow oncoming drivers to see their vehicles during such poor weather conditions.
The Temperature Changes
Fall weather is notoriously unpredictable, and especially vicious for its temperature changes. It can be summer-like hot one day and sweater weather cold just a day later. With these sudden changes, cold and potentially icy mornings are to be expected. Icy roads may be fleeting in the fall, but the early conditions can cause unexpectedly slippery roads that lead to accidents. Because many drivers do not think about ice during fall months, they are caught unaware of the possibility for slick roads until it is too late.
The variations in temperature can also damage parts of the vehicle, including:
- Hoses and belts that crack
- Metals and plastics that contract and expand with the temperature changes and become more susceptible to breaking
- Windshields that can crack under the pressure
Because most of these incidents happen because of wear and tear, regular inspections of car parts can help prevent a major problem.
The Fog Reduces Visibility
Fog is one of the most dangerous and most unpredictable driving conditions during the fall season. It often creeps into a region slowly until it is so thick that drivers cannot see the front edge of their cars from behind the wheel, even during daylight. This fog can be more dangerous during the night when the light can’t even break through the haze.
When driving through fog, it is imperative that the vehicle’s lights are on, even if they are not providing additional visibility. Giving other traffic an indication of the vehicle’s presence is incredibly important for road safety. Always remember that you should use low beams at all times since high beams will reduce visibility, as the thick fog will reflect it back. If your vehicle comes equipped with fog lights, remember to use them in such instances as they are more useful and visible to other drivers.
Even with the lights on, cars should be driven slowly and cautiously when facing foggy weather. In especially thick fog, it may be necessary to pull over somewhere off the roadway and away from other cars to wait for the fog to clear. In these situations, it is very important to stay safely inside the vehicle and mark the vehicle correctly so oncoming traffic is well aware that you are there.
As fog becomes a common occurrence, it is imperative to inspect all the lights before you actually have to use them. This way, you can be sure that everything is functioning the way it should be.
The Kids are Back in School
With the summer officially coming to an end, the kids are headed back to school. This means that there will be more kids on the roads in a variety of different capacities. Some will be walking, some riding bikes and some young drivers will be venturing out on the roadways alone.
It is important for all drivers to keep an eye out for children of all ages who may be on or crossing the roads. Drivers should keep their eyes on the road and stay below the speed limit, especially in school zones or heavily residential areas.
There are also more joggers out taking advantage of the cool-but-not-too-cold weather in the fall. Many of them prefer jogging along a road, and they may be wearing headphones that prevent them from clearly hearing nearby vehicles. Drivers need to be careful around joggers as well. Although most of them have reflective gear to ensure they are seen on time, keep an eye out.
The Animals are Preparing for Winter
During the fall months, many animal species are preparing for winter. Squirrels, groundhogs and other small animals gather food and prepare shelters for the winter. Fall is also deer mating season, and the animals often dart into the roadways, especially around dawn and dusk. Drivers should be on the lookout for these creatures in rural and wooded areas. Lower your driving speed while in wooded areas so you have enough reaction time to avoid impact.
With the season change, there are many new challenges for drivers. There’s more water on the roads, visibility is reduced thanks to fog and a low-hanging sun, and the temperature change is often sudden. Drivers need to be aware of the weather changes and how these changes affect their daily commutes. By properly preparing their vehicles and by staying alert on the roadways, you can stay safe on the roads while keeping others safe as well.