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Keep safe on the road this fall

Published September 24, 2012


Autumn can be beautiful this time of the year, but it offers significant driving challenges. Weather and road conditions that we encounter now are quite different from the hot summer season we’ve just been through, so here is a list of 10 driving tips to help you deal with fall driving:

1. Tires are the most underrated safety feature on any vehicle. This is the time of year when your tires undergo their greatest changes. Dropping temperatures affect our tires in two ways: Tire air pressure will plunge in relation to that temperature drop. Take the time to check your tire pressures and bring them back up to a safe pressure. Secondly, tire grip will be reduced when the temperatures drop into the single digit range as the tread compound hardens with the cold. This will make braking distances longer and reduce grip for handling. Now is the time to start thinking about winter tires. When the ambient temperature in your area stays at or below 7 C, that is the time to mount winter tires to your vehicle. Waiting until the first snowfall is too late. If you need to order new winter tires, do it now so you don’t get caught in the last minute rush that always occurs during the first snowfall.

2. Wet leaves on the pavement reduce tire grip noticeably. The road can become quite greasy from wet leaves which will affect braking distances. If you encounter a pile of leaves on the road, it is best to avoid them if possible as debris could be lurking under those leaves which could damage your vehicle. It is not uncommon for children to play in large piles of leaves. Avoid driving through large piles at the side of the road or in driveways.

3. Fall colours, although spectacular, can be a driving distraction. As tempting as it is to revel in all that colour, it is best to pay attention to driving to ensure we all arrive at our destinations safely. We can also bet that there will be other distracted drivers sharing the road. Watching for them is more important than looking at leaves. If we really want to enjoy the fall colours, hike a trail or take a scenic bus tour.

4. Autumn means cool nights, but the ground still holds some of its warmth. These conditions will cause fog to form in the morning hours. The mist will sink to the low lying areas and motorists should be ready for the reduced visibility that can result.

5. As we drive through the cool autumn morning air, our vehicle’s exterior, including the windshield, will cool down. When we encounter this warm moist air, it will condense on our windshield. Unlike in winter, the fogging will happen on the outside of the windows. To remedy the windshield fogging, use the wipers to remove to moisture. To prevent the fog from condensing on your windshield, set your defroster to blow warm air onto the windshield to warm it up. A warm windshield is less likely to fog up.

6. Frost on your vehicle in the morning means there will more than likely be some icing on bridges, so take care. Roads tend to hold some warmth from the ground while bridges lack that heat. They sink and cool much quicker. This can result in black ice.

7. Daylight is diminishing, so remember to turn on your full headlight system. You may have become accustomed to driving after sun up and have, up until now, only used daytime running lights. Now you will need your full lights. Without your full headlight system being on, your taillights will not be illuminated.

8. Watch for agricultural equipment on rural roads as farmers reap their crops and prepare their fields for winter. Be patient with the farmers as they slowly move their equipment.

9. In rural areas, animals will start to move in preparation for winter. Deer will start to migrate and roads will be another obstacle for them to cross. Colliding with a deer can cause significant damage to a vehicle. If you are not confident in your collision avoidance skills, it is not recommended to try to swerve to avoid running over smaller animals. This has often led to loss of control and very serious crashes that led to fatalities for the vehicle occupants. It is not worth trying to save the life of a critter by putting yours and others in danger.

10. Watch for pedestrians as fall fashions tend to be darker, making it harder to see them crossing the road.

As fall approaches, our driving habits need to change to reflect the challenges of driving in these seasonal changes. Let’s all be smart drivers and remember to respect Mother Nature.

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