Snow and ice are often thought of as treacherous driving conditions, but that doesn’t mean other seasons won’t bring potential safety hazards. The Pacific Northwest has famously unpredictable and ever-changing weather.
This Fall, be prepared for driving wet leaves, fog, darkness, around wild animals, and other autumn safety hazards.
Leaves accumulated on the road hide even the largest potholes and uneven roads. When the leaves on the roadway become wet, they are extremely slippery, making driving conditions similar to driving on ice. Drive cautiously and slow down on roads with large amounts of leaves, especially in wet weather or on turns. Remove any leaves from your windshield to avoid the risk of them getting stuck under your windshield wipers. This is also a good time to check the overall condition of your wiper blades and replace worn-down blades.
Allow extra distance between you and the car in front of you should you need to stop suddenly. Wet conditions compromise your traction and could lead to collisions if you’re following too closely.
Keep your eyes peeled if you see large piles of leaves near the roadway in residential areas or near schools; leaf piles attract playing kids running and jumping into. You should never drive through a leaf pile; there could be children playing inside or it could be covering something hazardous to your car like a fire hydrant or electrical box.
In foggy situations, set your headlights to low. High beams aim the light higher around you and reflect the light back to you, further impairing vision. Low beam headlights aim the light downward onto the roadway to improve visibility. Always allow extra stopping distance between you and the car in front of you when driving in foggy conditions.
Heavy Rain & Standing Water
Avoid using cruise control, even adaptive cruise control, in heavy downpours or standing water to increase your safety. The car’s sensors are often affected by moisture and you may not have the same traction as you would without cruise control, leading to hydroplaning.
If you encounter standing water, only cross when the water is extremely shallow. Even an inch and a half of water can cause you to lose control of your car at any speed, so enter water at 3-4 mph. Never attempt to drive through water you could not cross on foot or deeper than 6 inches; it doesn’t take much to flood your exhaust or to make the car float.
From late September to mid-March, the nights are longer than the days, so chances are you’ll be driving in the dark much more often. Keep your headlights clean and clear of debris, if they seem to be dim or misaligned, see a professional mechanic.
Fall weather can also bring ice and black ice, especially being in a wet area of the country. Roads can ice overnight, remember that if you see ice or frost on your windshield or rooftops, there is likely ice and frost on the road. Pay special attention also to overpasses and bridges as these are areas that frost over first and are rife with black ice.
Check your tire pressure often. Changes in temperature cause the air in tires to expand or contract, and cold weather often leads to low tire pressure which hurt’s your car’s handling ability. Low tire pressure decreases the grip and responsiveness tires need to avoid accidents. This is also a good time to check the overall condition of your tires, good tire pressure won’t be enough to keep you safe, your tires need to have tread to make sure there is enough traction on wet roads.
Don’t put away those sunglasses! Even with summer gone, you might find a need for shades during autumn sunrises and sunsets which often causes glare. Keep your windshield clean both inside and outside to keep visibility high.
Fall is an active breeding time for deer, so they’re a common sight in autumn, if you see a deer on the road, lower your speed and keep an eye out for others because deer often travel in groups.
There are many things during Fall that risk your safety on the road, but to keep a long story short; lower your speed and stay distraction-free while on the road this Fall and as always, never use drugs or alcohol before or while driving. Stay safe out there and visit us if you need a car safety check!