Going from summer to fall means a shift in the challenges you face on the road. In the summer, most generally, rain, bright sun, vacation traffic may be the most you to have to deal with as problems while driving. Otherwise the weather is warm and nature does not throw too many surprises at you.
In the fall that changes…
The surprises can be many and quick. You can start out the day with clear roads and cool weather. A few hours later work your way through a stretch of black ice. A few hours after that you can be in a snowstorm. Here is a rundown of some of the things to look forward to with fall driving:
* Decreased daylight – it is dark later in the morning and gets dark sooner in the evening. You already knew that, but the effect of that is that you are sharing the road with car drivers that are making the adjustment from months of summer driving with long days of sun to short days of sun in the fall. With decreased visibility due to shorter daylight hours you have to stay ever vigilant and watch out for the mistakes of others.
*Angle of the Sun – late afternoon sun in the fall can cause serious visibility issues. When driving into the sun the glare can blind you. The glare can cause reflections off car windows and hoods. Make sure you have good quality sunglasses and keep your windows clean.
* Bridges freeze first – bridges can become very dangerous in the fall. They have exposure to the weather above and below. Since there is open air underneath them they will freeze before the roadway. You can be on a dry safe road and come to a bridge that is iced over. You must be prepared for that possibility. When going from the road to an icy bridge, ease off the fuel pedal and if you need to brake, do so very lightly.
* Rain – yes, rains come in every season. What is different about rains in the fall? They can be heavy, can be mixed with ice, and in certain areas you may be traveling it can fall on roads covered with leaves. You must slow down and leave extra room for safe braking.
* Frost – shadowy patches on the road can have frost. When you see shadows and the temperatures are cold enough you need to be aware of the chance of hitting a patch of frost which could cause you to possibly lose traction and control of your vehicle.
* Black Ice – the dreaded black ice can’t be seen, only experienced. And that experience is one you want to avoid. Black ice will form on bridges and wet areas on the road. Black ice can be found when driving in a very light icy mist. It is invisible hence the name black ice, you are seeing the road but there is a layer of icy precipitation on top of it. You can be driving along on clear road and then be caught totally unaware. Watch for ice forming on your truck mirrors which can give you a clue as to what is going on weather wise. Look ahead for brake lights coming on when the weather is ripe for black ice conditions. Ease off the fuel pedal. If you must brake do so very lightly. Slow down and maintain extra distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
* Hydroplaning – this happens when there is excessive water on the road. You begin to “float” on the water instead of driving on the road. Traction is lost because you do not have full contact with the pavement. As speed increases so does the likelihood of hydroplaning on a wet road. Decrease speed in the rain and slow down even more in heavy rains. Get off the road if need be.
* Fog – Fog often is found in lower places or areas that are surrounded by mountains, hills or trees. Fog is like a cloud but near the ground surface. In the fall, “radiation fog” is the most common type. It is formed when a clear air mass of cool air in the longer nights settles over ground surfaces that are still evaporating water from the warm summer months. The water is cooled to the point where it can no longer hold all the water vapor it contains. Then there is fog. “Advection” fog can occur when warm air moves over ice and snow in the winter. When you get into fog you must slow down immediately. Turn your flashers on if need be. Get off the road if you determine the fog is too thick to safely drive in.
Do a thorough pre-trip inspection. Make sure your wipers are in good condition. Make sure all your lights are working. Drive smart, drive defensively. Drive to protect the well-being of yourself and others. Going from summer to fall driving brings in different challenges, be ready for them.