This time of the year is an especially beautiful time to be on the road; the leaves are changing, the weather is cooler, and there’s something particularly special about the fall. As seasons change it is important to follow good motor-vehicle safety practices even more and be aware of conditions that can make driving hazardous.
We highly encourage everyone to keep these hazards and driving tips in mind as you take to the roads.
[ Read: Winter Weather Driving Safety ]
1. Children at Play
Kids don’t always understand and recognize road dangers. In some cases, especially while they’re having fun outdoors, they’re not attentive to traffic and may run out into the street after a tumbling ball or riding their bicycle with friends. While you’re driving through residential areas, always be on the lookout for children. If you know an area where minors tend to play, slow down and look before passing through.
Chances are you probably know someone who’s hit a deer or an animal (if you haven’t yourself) and how devastating it can be. According to The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, you’re “3.5 times as likely to hit an animal, especially a deer, in November as at any other time of the year,” and this is due to their mating season.
One way you can better prepare yourself, especially if you’re on the roads in the early mornings or evenings, is to be cautious in areas where you know there are deers or other animals. Slow down and pay attention to the road. If an animal enters the road, do not swerve to miss it—instead, blow your horn and apply your brakes. If you hit the animal, don’t get out and go to it; stay in your car and call the police.
3. Sun Glares
The mornings and late evenings are often moments when we’re faced with sun glares while driving. During the fall and winter, these glares can be blinding since the sun is closer to the horizon, preventing you from seeing what’s ahead. Be prepared by having a pair of sunglasses on hand, and try to keep some distance between yourself and the driver ahead of you. Also, be sure to keep your windshield clean and slow down when you’re entering an area where the sun may hinder your vision.
4. Slick Roads & Flooding
After it rains or during a period of rain, drive at a slower pace as you go through slick roadways to prevent accidents. You might be surprised how easy it is to rear-end someone while the roads are wet, so you’ll want to keep your distance. Also, never assume it’s okay to pass over a flooded area in the road because you don’t know if the road is still intact underneath. One foot of rushing water can sweep away a car, and just six inches of rushing water can knock someone down.
5. Fog & Frost
If you’re out while it’s foggy, visibility can be low depending on the denseness of the fog. Use your low-beams—not your high beams—so you can see the road more clearly. Putting on your high-beams will make the fog more visible ahead of you. Reduce your speed, especially for frosty mornings and when there is black ice on the roads. Try to avoid dips in the road and shaded areas to miss hitting black ice, and drive carefully when crossing bridges.
6. Less Daylight
During the fall and winter here in the U.S., we lose some daylight, leading many of us who commute in the mornings and evenings to drive while it’s dark. Darkness hinders our ability to perceive depth, recognize color, and see what’s around us while driving, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The organization also reports that most fatal crashes occur between 4 p.m. and 7:59 p.m. – which is essentially rush hours or when most individuals are heading home.
4 Safe Driving Tips to Keep in Mind
- Buckle up. Put on your seatbelt before driving off. Make sure any children that are riding with you are properly seated and buckled in.
- Keep a pulse on your vehicle’s vital signs. Make sure your tire pressure is at the right level, windshield wipers are working well, your head and taillights are functioning, and replace any brake pads if you notice squeaking.
- Don’t drive while impaired. Have a friend, family member, or coworker give you a lift if you’ve had an alcoholic beverage or have taken medication that can impair your driving.
- Avoid distracted driving. The NHTSA found that one out of three teenagers admitted to texting while driving. Don’t text and drive—pull over if you need to respond to someone. Avoid other distracting behaviors as well that can hinder your judgement.
The Bottom Line
While the seasons will change, driving hazards will always exist, but by staying alert and using best practices year-round, we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and others as we travel the roads.
Photo by Westend61 / Gettyimages