Although the autumn drop in temperatures can be a welcome change after the summer months, the new season also brings a new set of driving challenges. From shorter days to unexpectedly foggy mornings, you need to be prepared for these obstacles by giving your car proper maintenance and by slightly altering your driving style. Consider this guide to autumn driving challenges to help you travel safely.
The Sun is Lower
Because of the changing time of year and the shortening days, the sun is lowest during the morning and evening commutes. This means that it is shining directly in your eyes during the busiest times on the road, and nothing can be more annoying as you are trying to get to work on time or to get home after a long day. One of the simplest solutions is to keep a pair of quality sunglasses in your car to help protect your eyes from the strong rays.
For even better visibility, make sure that your windshield is clean and free from dirt, dust and debris. Sunlight passing through such grime can make it even more difficult for you to see. Finally, check your windscreen for scratches and small dents that can catch the light and cause poor visibility. Make repairs as necessary, especially before even more inclement weather arrives.
The Roads are Wet Once Again
The autumn season signals more rainfall for many areas of the country. If you are driving during a storm, not only is your visibility drastically reduced, but the roads are also much more dangerous.
Puddles are deceptively hazardous because you can never tell how deep they are as you are approaching them. While a puddle may appear to be shallow and safe, it may actually be much deeper, catching your tires and damaging the undercarriage of your vehicle. Deep puddles and standing water can also cause your vehicle to hydroplane, a situation in which you lose control of your car as it spins in the water. Hydroplaning often leads to accidents because cars hit other objects, including other vehicles.
As you are driving in rain or in wet conditions, make sure that you have your headlights on, even during the daylight hours. Not only will you be able to see more clearly through the rain, but you will also be more visible to oncoming traffic. You need to also be careful and try to avoid wet leaves on the road. Although they may look harmless, they are often slippery and can cause you to slide out of control.
The Temperature Changes
Autumn is notorious for constantly changing temperatures. Because of unexpected bursts of cold air, frosty and icy mornings are not uncommon. Ice on the roads can be nearly invisible, but it is still very slippery and dangerous, leading to unprepared drivers having accidents.
The cold temperatures can also affect the systems of your car, causing damage simply because of the weather changes. This damage may include:
• Cracked hoses and belts
• Snapped metals and plastics due to frequent contractions and expansions
• Cracked windscreen from the weather pressure
• Broken windscreen from a small chip or crack expanding.
Small damage often expands into full-fledged destruction thanks to the colder temperatures. Make sure that you regularly inspect your belts, hoses and windscreen for any changes or the start of this damage before it becomes more catastrophic.
Fog Reduces Visibility
One of the most dangerous driving conditions associated with the autumn is fog. Because it is less frequent during the other months of the year, fog is often unexpected and silently hazardous.
There can be times when the fog can be so thick that you will not be able to see beyond the bonnet of your vehicle, making it incredibly dangerous to drive. Although this can be perilous during the daytime hours, it’s even more worrisome at night.
Your best defence against having a bad accident due to fog is to be as prepared as possible. For this reason, you need to make sure that your lights are working properly before you even sit down in the driving seat. Always drive with your headlights on, but never use high beams. You need to keep the light focused down on the roadway so that you can see the lines and you can stay in your own lane. Pointing your high beams into the fog will only show you the fog and will disorient you while driving. If you have fog lights on your vehicle, this is obviously the best time to use them.
Keep your speed low so that you can adjust your driving if something jumps into your path or if another vehicle suddenly appears. Caution is always the best option. If the fog is exceptionally thick, it may be best for you to pull over and wait for it to pass rather than to risk an accident.
The Kids are Back at School
With the summer holiday over, children are back in school in the autumn. Although in school and off the streets during most hours of the day, you need to be especially careful while the children are travelling to and from school. These are very busy times of the day when kids are more likely to be taking less care when crossing the road. Make sure that you slow down and keep an eye out, especially in school zones.
These times of the day are also the most popular for joggers to be on the streets. Because many joggers wear headphones while exercising, they’re also less likely to be paying attention. Always be aware of your surroundings as you are driving.
Animals are Preparing for Winter
If you are driving through rural or heavily wooded areas, you should be cautious and look for animals that may be mating or searching for a place to spend the winter. Autumn is an especially important time for deer. These creatures, as well as other woodland animals, frequently dart onto the roadways around the dusk or dawn hours, and they can cause real damage to a vehicle and to its occupants during an accident.
Car Share to take the stress out of your journey
In order to mitigate some of the challenges of driving in autumn, consider giving car sharing a go. Encouraging your friends or colleagues to share their journeys on the daily commute not only lowers carbon emissions and reduces pollution and noise, but can also have an impact on local congestion, contributing to a safer trip for everyone involved in traffic. Car sharing is a great way to cut down on considerable financial costs as well as provide an opportunity to take some stress out of the journey when taking turns to drive. Liftshare offers a great way to introduce more sustainable, affordable, easier and safer travel options encouraging a change in your daily commute from day one.
The autumn season brings a set of changes and new challenges that you need to know before hitting the roadways. The low sun, reduced visibility due to fog and likelihood of more water on the roads are all difficulties that can be handled safely with the proper preparation. Thoroughly check your vehicle for any signs of stress before you begin driving, and always keep an eye on the roadways for children or animals. Keep these practices in mind, and you will be safe this autumn season.
About the author:
Matthew Young is a freelance automotive journalist and blogger hailing from Boston MA, USA. He is passionate about everything on 4 wheels and new, emerging tech in the industry. When Matthew is not busy writing about cars or awesome new technology, he usually spends time fiddling with his camera and learning a thing or two about photography. You can reach Matthew on Twitter at @mattbeardyoung.
Author Lex Barber