Common Driving Hazards to be Aware of this Fall
What better way to spend a nice fall day than by going out for a drive to admire the beautiful fall color? Michigan is home to some of the most spectacular fall color in the entire country, so it’s wonderful to be able to go out and enjoy it. Or if you aren’t heading out for a long drive, all the changing leaves can help make your day-to-day driving a little more enjoyable and picturesque.
But driving during the fall months can be dangerous if you’re not prepared. When people think of seasonal road hazards, they often think of winter and the snow and ice that comes along with it. While fall is a beautiful time of year, its rapidly-changing weather conditions can make road conditions quite treacherous and cause car accidents. Before you head out for that fall drive, here are a few of the most common road hazards to watch out for during this time of the year.
The fall months often tend to bring a lot of rain. Rainstorms in the early fall can make roads particularly dangerous because it stirs up all the oil and other residue that accumulated on roadways over the summer. Rain tends to make roadways the most hazardous shortly after it starts raining, so be sure to be mindful of your speed, particularly if it’s only just recently started raining.
The changing leaves are one of the best parts of fall, but all those falling leaves can create a road hazard, particularly after a rainfall. Wet leaves can make it difficult for tires to maintain traction and if the temperature has dropped below freezing, there’s a chance that leaves could be concealing ice on the road. But even if it hasn’t rained recently, leaves can still cover things like potholes and pavement markings, making it harder to know exactly what you’re getting into.
Early morning fog is another very common occurrence during the fall. If you need to drive someplace during a foggy morning, be sure to have your headlights on, but stick to your low beams. Many drivers feel like they need to have their high beams on to drive in fog, but this actually makes things worse. The bright light from high beams will bounce off the particles of water in the air and create glare. Instead, stick to your regular headlights, drive slowly, and maintain a good following distance between you and the cars in front of you.
Time to break out that ice scraper! It might not be cold enough to snow yet, but cold temperatures at night and in the early morning can mean your car might have some frost-covered windows in the morning. Always make sure your windows are completely cleared before trying to drive anywhere. Those cold temperatures can also make it possible for ice to form on roadways, particularly on bridges, overpasses, and other shaded areas, so proceed with caution in those types of areas.
The Michigan State Police estimate that approximately 50,000 car accidents involving deer occur in Michigan every year. Deer accidents can happen during any time of year, but they tend to increase during the fall because it’s deer mating and migration season. Be sure to look out for “Deer Crossing” signs and be very careful if you’re driving through an area where deer are likely to be seen, particularly early in the morning, at dusk, or at night. Watch for deer lurking near the side of the road. If you see one deer crossing a road, be very careful about proceeding. Deer tend to travel in groups, so if you see one, there are very likely others nearby waiting to cross.
If hitting a deer is inevitable, Michigan State Police advises that you “don’t veer for deer.” Swerving to avoid a deer can result in a more severe accident by causing a vehicle to roll over or the driver to hit a fixed object. Instead, hold the steering wheel steady with both hands and brake firmly. After the crash, put on your emergency flashers, move your car to the side of the road, and report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
Just because summer is over, that doesn’t mean it’s time to put away the sunglasses. Changes to sunrise and sunset times means you may encounter some extra sun glare that they don’t have to deal with during the summer months. If you’re driving in the late afternoon or early evening, you may have glare from the sunset to think of. Sun glare can nearly be blinding if it hits you just right, so always make sure you have an extra pair of sunglasses in your car just in case.