There’s a lot to love about autumn — the changing leaves, pumpkin carving, sweater weather — but when it comes to getting behind the wheel of a car, the change in season from summer to fall can add some challenges. With the wetter, frostier conditions, fallen leaves and fewer hours of daylight, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the roads ahead. Here’s a list of a few autumn driving challenges.
In fall, rain is quite common, which can make visibility difficult and may cause hydroplaning. And if it’s an especially chilly day, rain can turn to frost. Be alert, give yourself enough space to stop and avoid breaking suddenly (unless you have to), says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If fog rolls in, use low beams and maintain an appropriate distance between other vehicles, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
School is back in session, which adds more hustle and bustle in the streets — from increased traffic, to school buses frequent stops and pedestrians crossing. Make sure to follow the speed limits and be aware of pedestrians at all times, says NHTSA. And don’t forget: Halloween brings out trick-or-treaters, so be especially alert on Oct. 31.
Loss of Pressure
Temperatures rise and fall during autumn. These changes may cause car tires to expand and contract, which can result in loss of air pressure. Check your tires regularly to make sure they’re properly inflated. Typically, you can find the proper air pressure for your tires, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), in your car’s owner’s manual.
The colors of fall leaves are a beautiful sight to see, but when they’re in piles on the road, it may turn ugly. Soggy leaves can be as slippery as a patch of ice, according to the National Center for Rural Road Safety. They can also camouflage road hazards, like potholes. If you see wet leaves in the street, proceed carefully.
Deer in Route
All fall long, but especially come November, pay attention to animals crossing the road. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, you’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal — especially a deer — in November than at any other time of the year. This fall month coincides with deer mating season when bucks are likely to be roaming. Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs and be extra cautious if you’re driving at dusk or dawn, the highest-risk times for deer crashes. If you encounter an animal on the road, try to avoid swerving, says the University of Illinois Extension. Ideally, you’ll want to come to a controlled stop and let the animal pass.
After a long, balmy summer, the shift to fall can feel like a nice break. Soak it up while staying alert to the driving challenges of the season.
Originally published on October 29, 2013.