Fall can bring great beauty, but it also brings increased dangers on the road. Conditions can change rapidly, and fall driving is very different to what we’ve become used to during the summer.
Fortunately, making sure you’re set up for safe driving through the fall and into winter is neither expensive, nor does it take much time.
1. Be Prepared
The first thing you should do is give your car a quick check over. How’s your battery? If it’s past its best, a sudden overnight frost could make it flat, so maybe now is a good time to change it. Your brakes need to be in good condition too. In the event of an incident you want smooth control, not the sort of grabbing and sudden deceleration that can cause a skid.
Clean lights and a clean windscreen make a huge difference to visibility, so check wipers and replace blades if necessary. In fact all the things you do to winterize your car can really be done now.
2. Be Aware of Conditions
Even a little rain on roads that have been dry a while can make the surface slippery. Fallen leaves can hide potholes or debris. Add the two together and suddenly it’s like driving on ice. As the mornings and evenings get colder, ice pockets can form – particularly on raised roads and bridges. You probably know where the local black spots are, but it didn’t matter in the summer. Now you need to remind yourself to be a bit cautious.
Oddly, sunlight can also be dangerous in the fall. When you’re driving to and from work, the sun is lower in the sky and can dazzle. Keep sunglasses in the car for times like this.
It’s amazing how suddenly visibility can change. A bit of mist or fog on a cool morning and you might not see an animal – or a pedestrian – crossing the road until it’s too late.
3. Be On The Lookout
On the subject of animals, did you now that on average there are over 2,000 vehicle accidents involving deer and bears in British Columbia each year? Several of them are fatal. In the fall those statistics are highest because dawn and dusk – the times when animals are most active – now coincide with when we’re out and about.
If you should be unlucky enough that you can’t avoid hitting something, remember “don’t veer for deer.” Try to brake in straight line. Most injuries are actually caused by drivers who cross the highway and hit oncoming traffic, or roll, or go in a ditch.
4. Be Careful What You Do
A lot of accidents are caused by tiny moments when the driver’s attention wanders. All the usual recommendations about staying alert at the wheel go doubly for fall, when driving can be tricky simply because it’s unpredictable.
And please, stay off the phone. It doesn’t matter how comfortable you think you are with it, talking or texting distracts you. If you’ve got to make or receive a call, stop. Always.
5. Be Ready For Anything
You probably already carry a first-aid kit and a flashlight, with the arrival of fall you should consider adding a few other bits and pieces, particularly if you’re taking a trip.
A lightweight thermal blanket and a folding shovel won’t take up much space. Jumper cables are also a good idea, as is bottled water and food that will keep, such as high-energy cereal bars.
Safe driving in the fall isn’t rocket science. Take a few precautions, allow yourself a little extra time, and make sure your car is in good condition. That way you can enjoy the scenery, the colors and the wildlife – not be stuck out in the middle of it!