25 Sep Prepare for Fall Driving Hazards
Changing leaves also means changing driving habits. Fall brings inclement weather, longer nights, and other driving conditions you should adjust for before you hit the road.
Fall is officially here, and while autumnal favorites like pumpkins, colorful leaves, and Halloween come along with it, so do seasonal road hazards.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, 22% of all yearly automobile accidents — or more than 1.25 million crashes — are the result of, or are exacerbated by, hazardous weather conditions. With fall comes darker driving conditions, a higher likelihood of rain, and patches of wet leaves on the road, all of which drivers need to be wary.
Slippery When Wet
Wet leaves might not sound dangerous. But wet leaves can create slippery road conditions for drivers. Cars driving over patches of wet leaves can find the experience to be similar to hitting a patch of ice on the road, putting drivers at greater risk of crashing.
It’s important to know how your vehicle drives in wet road conditions. Each car handles differently, and understanding how your vehicle’s brakes work can go a long way in reacting to dangerous situations.
Anticipate any driving problems you may run into on the road as the weather changes. Avoid making abrupt maneuvers that can make you lose control of your vehicle or catch on slippery surfaces. In the event that your vehicle does go into a skid, steer in the direction of the skid to minimize your risk of injury and, hopefully, regain control.
As in any situation, it is crucial to drive the speed limit (or slower if the conditions are particularly hazardous) and obey road signs. That slippery when wet road sign is there for a reason.
Beware of Rainy Weather
As fall moves on, the likelihood of heavy and freezing rain in many parts of the country increases, especially as it gets closer to winter. Among the many dangers of rainy weather include flooded roads, muddy, slippery, and icy driving conditions.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, wet pavement-related accidents cause 352,221 injuries and 4,488 deaths yearly. To decrease your chances of getting into an accident on account of rain, follow these tips:
- Replace old or brittle window wiper blades. When it comes to rain and snow, having effective wipers are essential to making sure you have as much visibility as possible.
- Stay toward the middle lane of large roads and highways. Water tends to pool in the edge of the outer lanes of traffic.
- Stay at a following distance of at least six seconds between you and any vehicle in front of you. This will give you time to react to sudden stops.
- Be aware of vehicles ahead of you. Brake lights may be difficult to see in the rain, and cars might skid or hydroplane.
- Avoid using brakes to slow down. They may cause your vehicle to skid. Instead, take your foot off the accelerator pedal to slow down.
- Keep headlights on at all times so others can see your vehicle. Keep in mind, in some states having your lights on when it’s raining — no matter how heavily — is the law. (A general rule of thumb – if you need your windshield wipers on, you need your lights on.)
- Never drive through moving water if you cannot see the bottom. Your car may be swept away by a strong current. Water can also damage a modern vehicle’s electrical systems.
- Slow down. Posted speed limits are for ideal driving conditions only.
Driving at Night
The end of summer means shorter days, so low-light driving conditions last longer. While driving at night isn’t uncommon, drivers should adjust their habits from day to night.
A report by the National Safety Council found that traffic deaths were three times more likely to occur during nighttime.
With longer nights and more time spent driving in the dark, it’s a good idea to keep a few rules in mind:
- Double check all exterior lights. Make sure they aren’t smudged or dirty by cleaning them at least once per week.
- Make sure headlights are properly aligned so you can see ahead and your lights do not blind any other drivers.
- Keep your headlights on. While you might not need the visibility during twilight, it will help keep other drivers aware of you.
- Reduce your speed and increase your following distance. Vehicle speeds and distances are more difficult to judge at night.
- Use your high beams for greater visibility, but turn them off if you are driving around other vehicles to avoid blinding drivers.
- Keep an eye out for pedestrians and bikers that may not be readily visible.
- Keep dashboard lights as dim as possible and do not turn on interior lights. You may temporarily blind yourself and have to readjust your eyes to the darkness.
- Be careful of animals that may wander onto the road. Particularly in rural areas, deer strikes can cause significant damage to your vehicle and cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
As the seasons change, so do driving conditions. It’s something that all drivers should keep in mind as weather conditions shift into fall and roads become riskier to drive. Minor changes to driving habits as fall begins can help keep you and the drivers you share the road with safe.