Winter gets the bad reputation for difficult weather-related driving conditions, and while it’s well deserved, fall has some surprisingly difficult driving challenges as well. Hot and cold weather, extra rain, possible snow, slick fallen leaves and more turn fall driving into a bit of a dicey experience. Arm yourself with these tips, and look forward to a smooth driving season.
Watch out for deer
There’s a reason deer hunting season is spans over fall and winter in most states. At this time of year, deer are going through their prime mating season. Young deer, males especially, are known to act erratically at this time, seemingly throwing their usually cautious nature to the wind. This increased movement makes it easier to track them, but unfortunately it also makes it easier to collide with them on the road.
There are three key points to remember if you encounter a deer on or near the road:
- Slow down and watch out: deer are rarely alone, and there are often more than one of them crossing the street at a time.
Tip: Some drivers will signal if they’ve seen a deer in a certain area by flashing their high beams to oncoming traffic. If you notice another driver do this, drive slowly and carefully through the area, especially if you’re in or at the edge of wooded areas
- Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer. The best method is slowly but firmly step on the brakes. Keeping control of your vehicle is key. Deer cause many accidents by causing inexperienced drivers to overcorrect when trying to avoid hitting the animal. Overcorrecting can have deadly consequences as often the only other directions your vehicle can go are off the road or into oncoming traffic.
- Always exercise caution while driving at dawn or dusk. Deer are most active at this time. Deer also tend to congregate in fields at the edge of woods, in meadows or other partially wooded areas. Take special caution when driving at these times or in these settings.
Don’t brake on leaves
In fact, it’s wise to avoid any sudden shift in momentum or direction while driving over leaves. Wet or decomposing leaves can be as slick as ice; they decrease the friction between your tires and the road, making it easier for your vehicle to spin out of control.
Fallen leaves can also obscure lane lines and other markers on the road. Be attentive and make an effort to be aware and keep to your designated lane when driving. Also keep an eye out for stop signs, as their signature red color is less distinct against similar fall colors.
Plan ahead for the weather
Autumn brings many of us a taste of every kind of weather our climate has to offer. At this time of year, the rising and setting sun aligns almost perfectly with east and westbound roads, treating drivers to difficult glare. Rain also tends to be more abundant in the fall, so remembering rain safety and etiquette (if your wipers are moving, your headlights should be on) is important. Finally, as temperatures dip, bridges and other similarly exposed roadways are prone to freezing and must be navigated with care.
Grab some good sunglasses, stock up with new wipers and rain repellent for your windshield, and drive with care over raised roads.
Prepare the car for travel
The late summer heat can take a toll on any vehicle, and with alternatively severe weather on the horizon, preparing the car for autumn travel is essential. These are the basics:
Test the car’s battery
Hot weather can severely strain a car’s battery, and cold weather isn’t much better. As fall is a time during which much of the country experiences drastic temperature changes daily, consider being proactive in testing your car’s battery and buying a replacement, if necessary.
Get an oil change
Engine oil should be replaced at the recommended intervals stated in the vehicle owner’s manual. You should check the vehicle’s oil level on a monthly basis.
Warm weather adds pressure to tires, which could lead to a blowout. Inspecting the vehicle’s tires on a regular basis, including the spare, could help to prevent an issue.
Use a tire gauge to check the tire pressure in all four tires and the spare at least once a month. Check to make sure that the tires are set to the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure.
Maintain fluid levels
If your vehicle lacks appropriate fluid levels, there’s a chance the car may break down. Maintaining proper fluid levels can also add thousands of miles to the life of the car.
Check the following systems:
- Radiator/cooling system
- Window washer
- Air conditioner
Autumn driving raises challenges for drivers of all ages and experience levels. Remember to drive carefully, be patient and always be alert. Set a positive example for other drivers on the road, and for young drivers in your family, by following these tips.