Fall is a gorgeous but busy time of year with kids heading back to school and leaf peepers hitting the road to find the most colorful and breathtaking vistas. Before you know it, crowds start swarming the malls for holiday shopping while carloads of snow lovers zip off to hit the slopes.
Just getting to work in the midst of this activity is enough of a challenge when road conditions are good and your car is in top shape. If you want to stay safe and enjoy a few adventures of your own, keep these fall driving safety tips in mind.
Watch Out for Wildlife
Deer are a major concern for drivers in the fall. Why? Mating season. Hitting a deer can cause serious damage to your car or even be fatal, so watch out! If you see one deer cross the street, more are likely to follow.
Slow down or stop the car completely until you’re sure the whole group has made it out of the woods, and then proceed with caution.
Depending on where you drive, you might also see geese crossing the road. Geese migrate in response to changing temperatures at different times during the fall, and gaggles of them may still be hanging around in ponds, lakes and public areas with large pools of water. The smartest thing to do is give the geese the right of way and avoid joining the 36% of drivers who file auto insurance claims after colliding with wildlife.
Safeguard Against Slippery Conditions
Summer driving leaves road coated in oil, dirt and grime, which gets covered with a blanket of leaves as soon as the first fall storm hits. The same leaves you loved jumping in as a kid become as much of a hazard as ice when wet. Be cautious when driving on damp roads, especially if the neighbors have been blowing all the leaves off their lawns and into the street.
Unpredictable fall weather can bring additional dangers like black ice and squalls of snow, sleet or freezing rain. Stay safe by switching to winter tires early in the season and allowing extra time to reach destinations so that you don’t feel the need to rush.
Keep speeds reasonable, and leave ample distance between your vehicle and other drivers in case you need to make a sudden stop.
Don’t Forget Fog and Sun
If your commute takes you east in the morning or west in the evening, you know the challenge of driving with the unrelenting glare of the sun in your face.
Morning fog caused by seasonal changes in temperature can further reduce visibility. When combined with unpredictable road conditions, this creates the perfect environment for accidents.
Unfortunately for those who would love an excuse to stay in bed and skip work on chilly mornings, reduced visibility doesn’t mean you have to avoid driving. A good pair of sunglasses is all you need to combat glare. Approach traffic lights with caution if the sun makes it difficult to see the color, and keep headlights low in foggy conditions.
Make Time for More Traffic
Long before it begins to look a lot like Christmas, it comes time for holiday sales. Black Friday has somehow managed to creep backwards into Thanksgiving, and presales may start weeks in advance. Trying to get through traffic anywhere near a mall or shopping center becomes virtually impossible, so you might want to consider changing your route if it normally takes you past a hotspot for holiday bargain hunters.
In the middle of all this, don’t forget school is in full swing. Busses are out trying to navigate the same crazy traffic you are, and kids need clear, safe paths for crossing streets. Pay attention to caution lights, and know when you’re legally required to stop when children are exiting a bus.
Consider Car Maintenance
Performing seasonal maintenance gets your car in top condition to deal with the hazards of fall driving. After a summer of road trips and sweltering commutes, it’s a good idea to give your vehicle a little extra care. To prepare for the changing weather:
· Keep the windshield free of dirt, frost and ice
· Clean the headlights, removing haze with a restoration kit if necessary
· Replace damaged wiper blades
· Check and clean or replace the battery
· Monitor tire pressure and tread depth
· Have the brakes inspected
Throughout the season and into the winter, remember to check windshield washer fluid and coolant levels. Top off anything that’s low to ensure you can see where you’re going and your engine runs smoothly.
Following driving safety tips for fall and keeping up with car maintenance during cooler weather helps you stay alert and equipped for changing conditions. You’ll be all set for your commute and any weekend road trips you have planned!
About the Author Theresa “Sam” Houghton is a writer, speaker and health coach from Troy, NY. She’s a regular contributor to NutritionStudies.org, and her work has appeared in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op Coop Scoop, Natural Awakenings Magazine and the NutritionFacts.org 2017 Daily Dozen calendar. She has been a featured guest on Focus on Albany, WMAC’s Food Friday and the Just Ask David podcast. When she's not writing or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, cook tasty plant-based food and knit socks. You can find out more about Sam at GreenGutWellness.com.