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Safety Tips for Fall Driving

fall driving safety tipsAre you headed out this fall in search of foliage in an array of colors, off to watch a football game with friends down the road, or perhaps traveling across the country for the holidays with family? Wherever you travel this fall, be safe on the roads. Though the weather is nice here in the valley, in the high country it’s pretty chilly and with the cooler weather, danger could be around the next corner. Follow our fall driving safety tips to stay safe this time of year so that you can enjoy the very best things autumn has to offer. 

Holiday time, in particular, is one of the busiest travel times of the year and while many people fly, even more, people opt to drive. That means more cars on the road, more changes in climate and temperatures, and more chance of danger on the roadway. Though you may already be a safe driver, it’s good to review safety tips to refresh your memory and continue driving safely. 

Beware of Dangerous Weather Conditions

It’s easy to predict that Aunt Edna will be bringing her lime gelatin mold to dinner this holiday season, as she does every year. One thing that’s completely unpredictable on the road? Black ice. Black ice is transparent ice that has taken on the color of the surface of the road. When temperatures rise, the top layer of ice begins to melt causing a dangerously slick surface. Tires are unable to provide the right amount of traction with the road, causing vehicles to lose control which can lead to an accident.

Drivers should take caution on overpasses and bridges, especially, as these surfaces are more prone to develop black ice. This is because cold air enters these structures from both the top and bottom, freezing at a much faster rate than the road or highway. During the day black ice is easily recognizable as surfaces may appear glossy or wet looking and are often found in shaded areas. However, black ice at night is much more difficult to see. Here’s what to do if you encounter black ice:

  • Remain calm. 
  • Do not make any sudden movements or hit the brakes.
  • Lift your foot off the accelerator and allow your vehicle to coast through the area. 

Once the car begins to slow down, your tires will regain the ability to grip the road once again. 

In the valley, sudden rain showers can impede your ability to drive. The best way to stay safe during a rain shower is to slow down or avoid driving altogether until the storm passes. Learn how to drive in the rain in Arizona to stay safe on wet roads.

Watch for Children 

When you’re on the road and children are nearby, you must act as their eyes and ears in addition to paying attention to the road. Children are unpredictable and can run out in front of cars without looking. Kids may be unaware of traffic laws or may otherwise engage in horseplay. It is your job as the driver to be on the lookout for children and drive with extreme caution.

 Safe driving around children actually begins in your own driveway. Many vehicles today are equipped with backup cameras, but they don’t catch everything. Turn around and look in both directions, check your mirrors, and camera if applicable before backing up. Kids on bikes and scooters whiz by quickly and may not notice your moving vehicle. Additionally, most neighborhood speed limits are between 15 – 30 MPH. When driving in a residential area, it’s smart to go even slower to avoid hitting children who may dart across the road, without looking, while playing. 

On school days, watch for school buses picking up or dropping off students. The lights on both the front and back of the bus will help communicate the driver’s intention. Yellow flashing lights mean that the bus is preparing to stop. Red flashing lights mean that the bus has passengers that may be loading or unloading, and vehicles are prohibited from passing. Drivers approaching a bus with the stop sign arm out are required to stop regardless of the direction they are traveling. Vehicles are not required to stop when traveling in the opposite direction on roadways divided by medians or other barriers. 

Adjust Your Tire Pressure

Tire pressure expands in summer and contracts when temperatures drop. You may have noticed the TPMS light has come on in your car or noticed your tire pressure is a bit low, it is a common occurrence this time of year. Tire pressure actually decreases by 1 PSI for every 10-degree drop in ambient temperatures. Overnight temperatures are colder and when you go to start your car in the morning, your tire pressure just might be low enough to trigger the TPMS light to come on. As temperatures rise throughout the day, so too does the air in the tires, increasing the pressure which may turn off the light. Do not assume that just because the light went off your tires are at the correct pressure, though.

For an accurate reading, check your tires using a digital tire pressure gauge. If the pressure is between 30-33 PSI, you can ignore the light. However, if the number is lower, it’s best to add air to your tires. Refer to your owner’s manual or check the sticker on the inside of the driver’s door for the recommended PSI for your vehicle’s tires. Driving endlessly on tires with low pressure puts you at risk of a tire blow out endangering yourself, your passengers, and other drivers. Low pressure also has a negative effect on gas mileage and accelerates tire wear, meaning more money out of your pocket for fuel and eventually, new tires. 

Get a Different Point of View

The days are getting shorter which means you’re likely driving in the dark at some point during the day. Once the sun sets and the night sky emerges, you need to rely on your headlights to help you see and make yourself more visible to other drivers on the road. Be sure all lights on your vehicle are functioning including the headlights, taillights, and high beams. Be aware that over time the plastic cover meant to protect the headlights may become damaged from the sun’s harmful UV rays, producing a dull, dim light. 

If you’re not driving in the dark, your commute may have you driving into the sun in the morning or afternoon hours—a dangerous time of day. Driving into the sun at dusk is extremely unpleasant, dangerous, and most often, unavoidable. When the sun is low the sunlight creates an aggressive glare across the windshield. This glare can cause temporary blindness making it difficult to see other vehicles on the road, streetlights, and signs. Polarized sunglasses can help protect your eyes while driving. Here’s what else you can do when encountering sun glare:

  • Slow down. Poor visibility hinders your ability to react quickly, so slowing down may help to prevent an accident.
  • Give more space. Give yourself plenty of space from the vehicle in front of you. If the driver slams on the brakes, you’ll need plenty of distance to avoid hitting the back of their car. 
  • Try a different route. Though you may be traveling into the sun, you may want to try driving north or south or along tall buildings and trees to help reduce the glare.
  • Adjust your schedule. Try traveling at different times to avoid the glare altogether. The sun’s glare is at its worst an hour after the sun rises and an hour before the sunsets.
  • Clean your windshield. Dirt on the windshield can unpleasantly distribute light making it even harder to see. Cleaning the windshield frequently, both inside and out will help.