Now that fall is upon us, drivers face many new driving risks. During the summer months we forget about frost, heavy rains, school children on the streets, and how the fall sun can blind you.
If you want to breeze through the fall unscathed, here are 5 ways to stay safe while traveling.
Inspect Your Vehicle
It’s never fun to have a breakdown, but when it’s dark, rainy, and windy, even less so. Fall is a good time to give your vehicle a once over anticipating the inevitable cooler and often crazier weather.
Check that the terminals on the battery are corrosion-free, and the are connections tight. They can work loose from vibration. If your vehicle’s battery is more than a few years old, you may want to replace it before it leaves you stranded. If you notice the battery’s losing its charge, it could also be a sign of alternator problems.
Also inspect your tires for wear and proper pressure. Fall temperatures often fluctuate throughout the day, which can lead to tire pressure loss. Poorly inflated tires wear more quickly too, so it’s a wise precaution to avoid unnecessary costs.
Prepare for Glare
During the fall the sun travels low across the horizon which usually means glare in your eyes in the morning and evening. Glare worsens when you have a frosty or dirty windshield, so clean it inside and out and wait until it defrosts before you drive. Change your windshield wipers and store washer fluid in the trunk, too.
Even though the days shorten in the fall, it doesn’t mean you should stow away the sunglasses. The best sunglasses block 99-100% of UV rays and 75-90% of visible light. Anything less is not dark enough for safe driving and eye protection.
The kids are back in school and school buses are common now. In most states, including Rhode Island, it’s illegal to pass a school bus while its lights are flashing. Passing a school bus while children unload could cause injury or death.
As the warm weather wanes, the leaves begin to fall. This debris obscures hazards such as potholes, road markings, and animals. Reduce your speed in the fall and avoid debris when possible.
Most cars automatically switch on the headlights when you start the car, but not older models. Since you’ll drive with less light and more darkness, habitually turn on your headlights before you leave. Ensure they’re properly aligned and clean the lenses. If they look foggy, a toothbrush, toothpaste, and clean water will remove the cloudy residue. Polish with a soft, clean cloth afterwards.
If you’re driving in fog and your vehicle does not have fog lamps use your low beams, not high beams. The glare from high beam headlights is powerful, but they can almost blind a person when it’s raining.
Headlights also give you an improved chance of detecting road hazards such as ice on bridges or oil slicks on the road. Brake slowly and give yourself extra time to stop under questionable conditions. Fog is common in the fall in low lying areas and it impairs your vision and alters depth perception.
Watch For Deer
Because it’s mating season, deer sightings are sure to increase. What makes matters worse is that they enjoy dusk and dawn when visibility is at its lowest.
If you see one deer there’s likely more so stay alert. Deer are also incredibly quick and they can dart out of the bush right in front of you. Many drivers also lose some of their depth perception as sunlight disappears, so slowing down and keeping space between other vehicles is even more important.
If you hit a deer, stay in your car and call for help. Check with your insurance agent to ensure you have proper coverage too. Hitting a deer can cause substantial damage.