Top 10 Tips: Fall Driving Safety
By Heather Klinefelter, Outreach Specialist
Autumn is here and it brings with it a new set of commuting challenges. Glare, unpredictable weather, time change, and much more. Read on for tips to drive safely this fall. We have you covered for a successful commute or trip to the pumpkin patch!
#1 – Mind the Leaves!
I live on a giant hill in the city. I’ve fallen down because of slipping on leaves so many times it’s almost comical. But falling on your bottom is different than trying to pull your car out of a pile of wet leaves. Take the time to clear the leaves on your street or driveway. Take a few minutes to rake up the leaves and save yourself a burn out or a sore bum.
#2 – The Great Migration
During the fall, many animals are on migration, moving to their winter homes or their breeding grounds. This means increased animal activity in your neighborhood or highway commute. Be aware of deer activity during morning and evening hours. Deer are diurnal, which means they are more active at dawn and dusk. Raptors like owls, hawks, and falcons like to hunt along highways. Turkeys are looking for mates. We’ve got a famous one in Downtown York. Take your time, slow down, and be alert.
“You’re 3.5 times as likely to hit an animal, especially a deer, in November as at any other time of the year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says. Deer are likely to be mating in November, and that’s why you see more of them.” – AARP
#3 – Weather, Weather, Weather!
Fall weather can be unpredictable. Thunderstorms? Check. Fog? Check. Hail? Check. 80 degrees? Check. Halloween Snowpocalypse? Check. Make sure your tires are in good shape with good tread, look into snow chains or tires, and check your tire pressure. Every 10 degrees of temperature change can affect your tires’ psi. Use this handy Tire Pressure Calculator to make sure your tires are properly inflated.
#4 – Check Your Lights
With the shortened days comes more use of your vehicle’s lights. Make sure all your lights are in working order. Headlights, break lights, turn signals, fog lights. These are all important for safety while driving. You want to be seen and want to see other drivers. Commuting in the dark is an added hassle, make sure you are prepared.
#5 – Wiper Maintenance
Your wipers are your lifeline during bad weather – if you can’t see out your windshield, you can’t see. Whether the weather is snow, rain, or mist, good windshield wipers are a must. They can save your life. Make sure your blades are in working order before heading out on the road this fall.
#6 – Fog Glare
Fog is a regular occurrence during fall and spring. While it may be tempting to push that high beam button, it’s safer to use regular beams on your headlights. PennDOT says, “When driving in fog, motorists should use low beam headlights since the high beam setting creates glare and reduces visibility. Not only will headlights enhance visibility of your vehicle, state law requires headlights be on when wipers are in use.”
#7 – Sun Glare
During the fall, the sun moves closer to the earth’s horizon and it can cause severe glare, especially during the morning and evening. Keep your windshield clean, on the inside and outside. Remember your sunglasses. Use your sun visor. Use your running lights during the day. Slow down and be mindful. I used to commute from the University of Maryland to York, PA, and there was always the exit to get onto 83 North from 695. Blindingly beautiful sunsets, but also blindingly blind driving. Look away and keep your cool.
#8 – Fall Back
Time change is right around the corner. That means your 8 am drop off is going to become 7 am before you know it. During the lead up to falling back, you should slowly adjust you and your children’s sleeping schedule to avoid the eventual meltdowns from lack of sleep and sunshine. Make sure your commute is safe by following the other safety tips by checking your lights, using your flip up or smart rearview mirror to dim the headlights behind you, and remembering to leave extra time while commuting for the unexpected.
#9 – Pothole Pandemic
There’s a joke that the state flower of Pennsylvania is the pothole. Be aware that potholes can be hidden in the fall by water or leaves. There’s nothing like hitting a pothole at 50 miles an hour on the freeway. However, it can be worse if you are travelling in the autumn and there are leaves in the pothole looking like it’s just a regular road. Don’t fall for it (oh, that’s punny!).
#10 – Leaf Piles
If you’re like me, driving through a big pile of leaves on the side of the road in the neighborhood sounds like a lot of fun. However, if you have any feral cats in your neighborhood, they might look at those leaf piles as a warm safe place to sleep. If you blow through them, you might accidentally harm a cat or other wildlife looking for a nap. Better to be safe than sorry.