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How To Stay Safe When Driving On The Roads This Autumn – Autoline

08 October 2019

Autumn is here! The trees are looking pretty and everything starts to get a little more atmospheric in the mornings and evenings. There are leaves to kick (and jump into!), conkers to smash and most importantly of all, Starbucks has started selling that Pumpkin Spice Latte.

But like any season the autumn presents its own unique set of challenges, not least for motorists. Most people will be able to tell you exactly why the winter is such a difficult season to drive in, but the dangers of autumn can be a little harder to put your finger on.

Below, we’ve drawn up a quick list of things that you should keep an eye out for this season on the road.

Darker Evenings 

Clocks go back 2017

This year, the clocks go back on the 27th October and while some welcome the onset of the longer nights did you know that the number of accidents that take place on the roads typically spikes at the same time the clocks change?

Research from RoSPA has found that motorists are as much as a third more likely to have an accident after the clocks go back, particularly between 8am and 10am in the morning and 3pm and 7pm in the evening.

This is most commonly attributed to the fact that drivers mightn’t necessarily be used to driving in the dark following the sudden switch, and also that people typically feel more tired when the clocks change, as they struggle to adjust to waking up and travelling home in the dark.

Keeping your vehicle’s windscreen and windows clean and making sure to turn your dipped headlights on will greatly improve your ability to spot hazards in the dark, and you should also try to leave a larger gap between vehicles in front of you to give yourself more time to react to a potential hazard.

Leaves on the Road 

Autumn leaves in road

The falling autumn leaves are certainly pretty to look at, but what a lot of people mightn’t realise is that they can also be potentially very dangerous for drivers.

Littering the ground when they fall, wet leaves can obscure road lines and other markings and will make the road surface just as slick and hazardous as ice can in the winter. As harmless as they might seem, leaves will act in exactly the same fashion as standing water if you hit them at high speed, which can cause cars to potentially spin out on the road.

It’s not just wet leaves that can cause problems, either. Dried foliage can lodge itself inside your car, causing the potential for fires when coupled with a hot engine or exhaust. The fact that they can also cover up hazards in the road like potholes and manhole covers means that it’s always best to avoid driving through large piles of leaves where possible, just to be on the safe side.

Dazzling Sun

Driving in bright and low sunlight

Or rather, there goes the sun. October is the worst month for low-lying sun glare, which is caused when the sun hangs low in the sky during the twilight hours.

It’s estimated that dazzling caused by sunlight during early mornings and late evenings is responsible for the injury of thousands of drivers a year, with glare impeding motorists’ ability to spot pedestrians and oncoming traffic. It can also make it harder to see the colour of traffic lights, causing confusion where drivers aren’t sure whether to stop or go.

Even though the summer season is now well and truly over, it’s a good idea to keep sunglasses in your car at all times as they can be handy in other seasons, even during the winter to combat snow glare.

Remember to keep your windscreen clean too - a dirty windscreen will ‘trap’ more of the light, reducing your ability to see even further.

Bad Weather

Driving in heavy rain

As if Northern Irish weather wasn’t changeable enough, the autumn can be one of the most erratic seasons for weather patterns. Sunny days can give way to frosty nights at the tip of a hat, and sudden showers can leave roads slick and greasy, particularly with the fallen leaves.

Fog is also common on cold mornings, which will greatly limit both visibility and the ability to perceive distances. One common mistake that drivers make is turning their full-beams on in an attempt to cut through the fog, however this actually makes visibility worse by bouncing off the fog and back into the driver’s line of sight.

Instead, keep your speed low and keep leave a good distance behind the car in front of you. This will give you enough time to stop if you suddenly need to.

Temperatures in the autumn also tend to drop dramatically through the night, which can lead to patches of morning frost and icy spots which are common particularly in shaded parts of the road. You should stay alert while driving at these times, and go easy on your accelerator pedal to avoid spinning the wheels and losing control.

Animals

Animal crossing

The autumn season means a rise in the amount of activity in the animal world, as all manner of furred and feathered creatures scramble to prepare themselves for the oncoming winter months.

Deer, which become most active in October, are common in some parts of the Northern Irish countryside and are known to dart out into the middle of the road at a moment’s notice. Not only does this cause millions of pounds worth of damage to vehicles each and every year, such accidents can even kill and injure car occupants too.

If you’re using full-beam headlights, dip them if you see a deer, otherwise it may freeze in your path. It’s usually safer to slow down and continue as usual rather than swerve or brake hard to try to avoid it. Sudden manoeuvres can result in a loss of control and increase the risk of hitting a tree or another vehicle.

Smaller animals are also more active in the autumn, so slowing down in wooded and countryside areas is advisable. It’s also good practice to alert oncoming drivers of any potential hazards by putting on your hazard lights briefly.

Of course, having the right insurance is just as important as staying careful on the roads, particularly at that time of year when things can become just that bit more unpredictable.

READ MORE: Top Tips For Safe Driving In The Dark