There’s something special about autumn. It’s a favorite time of year for millions with its cool, crisp air and the kaleidoscope of rich colors. It’s a time for wrapping up the yard work, digging out that favorite old sweater and sending the kids back to school.
But like any other season, autumn has its own unique driving hazards.
Here are 10 of the most common fall driving hazards that safe drivers watch out for:
- Deer in the headlights. Fall is deer mating and migrating time, so be especially alert for deer and other animals in the roadway, especially at night. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), you’re 3.5 times more likely to hit an animal – especially a deer – in November than at any other time of the year.
- Back-to-school traffic. We all know the flashing red lights and extended “stop” arm on a school bus mean school is back in session. Be extra vigilant for children crossing the road. And don’t forget to watch for teenagers behind the wheel driving to school.
- Dwindling light. According to the National Safety Council, 50 percent of traffic deaths occur at night. With the changing season and the ending of daylight savings time, lighting conditions on the road are changing. That makes it more difficult to see animals and objects, as well as judge speed and distance, especially as you get older.
- Fog. Those chilly mornings can bring fog, and that means limited visibility. If you encounter fog, reduce your speed, leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you, and don’t use your high beam headlights.
- Water. Water can create slippery surfaces, whether it’s morning dew, rain or flooding. Even before puddles accumulate, water can create a slick surface on top of oil, grime, dust and leaves. And when those nighttime and morning temperatures are chilly enough, that water starts turning to ice on the roadways.
- Leaves. Spectacular colors are a fall favorite, but the leaves also create road hazards. They can cover roadways and make them slick, especially in rainy conditions. They can obscure traffic lines and potholes. And they can cause pile-ups from motorists stopping to snap pictures.
- Frost and ice. With fall temperatures dropping dramatically during the night, morning frost and icy spots can form on the road. These hazards are especially prevalent on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of roadways. Use extra caution as the mercury drops.
- Glare. With changing daylight conditions, the sun is also shining at different angles. That can cause glare on the roads, in your rearview mirrors or reflecting off cars in front of you. Any of these scenarios can temporarily blind you, making it easy to miss seeing oncoming traffic, traffic in front of you or pedestrians.
- Harvest-time traffic. If you live in a small rural community near farmland, it’s not uncommon to see slow moving tractors and wagons hauling crops to grain elevators, trucks hauling equipment or crops and other harvest time activities. Give them plenty of space.
- Vehicle maintenance. As the weather begins to cool down and you spend more time driving in darker conditions, it’s a good time to make sure your vehicle is in top working order. Check all fluids, your battery and alternator, all belts and hoses and the condition of your tires. A well-maintained vehicle is crucial for driving safely and avoiding road hazards.