Leaf it out: Top five autumn driving tips

Is it just us, or is the autumn the best season of all? Okay, so the nights are getting longer, it’s now too cold to go to the beach and the weather’s also colder, but do we really get all that much good weather in Britain anyway?

It might be getting a little harder to wake up in the dark mornings and your pre-work coffee bill is steadily increasing, but there are still plenty of reasons why autumn months are great.

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!), plus conkers to smash, and Starbucks have already started selling that Pumpkin Spice Latte, which you’ll end up addicted to for the next six or so months.

However, like any season, the autumn presents its own unique set of driving challenges. Most people will be able to tell you exactly why the winter is a difficult season to drive in (hello, black ice!), but the dangers of autumn can be a little harder to put your finger on.

As a result, we’ve drawn up a handy list of some of the main things you should keep an eye out for this season.

School’s in

Autumn always means the back to school period for children, which means a sudden and dramatic increase in the amount of cars and buses on the roads.

According to worrying figures released this week by safety charity Brake, over a third of all parents have reported that they’ve witnessed or been involved in a “near miss” just outside their child’s school.

The figures also state that parents will take their kids to school more often during the autumn and winter months, meaning that this is the season when the most traffic will be on the roads during the rush hour periods.

It’s always worthwhile keeping an eye out for extra traffic and being mindful of the fact that everybody will be in a rush. Checking mirrors and blind spots, plus using indicators and brushing up on other basic habits can go a long way to increasing your safety on the road.

Also, it’s good to be mindful that it isn’t just other motorists that you’re in danger of hitting: plenty of pedestrians, children among them, will be walking to and from school, often in mornings when visibility is low.

With the stats showing that two-thirds of parents have witnessed children aged between four and 11 crossing roads without holding an adult’s hand, keeping your speed slow and staying alert are just some of the steps you can take to help avoid a serious tragedy.

Leaf well enough alone

One of the autumn’s best features, the falling leaves certainly are pretty to look at, but they can also be seriously dangerous for drivers.

Littering the roads when they fall, wet leaves can make the roads just as slick and hazardous as ice can in the winter, and can also obscure traffic lines and other pavement markings. As harmless as they may seem, leaves will act in exactly the same fashion as standing water, causing cars to potentially spin out on the road and crash.

It’s not just wet leaves that can cause problems, either. Dried-out foliage can lodge itself inside your car, causing the potential for fires when coupled with a hot engine or exhaust. They can also cover up hazards in the road like potholes, so it’s always best to avoid large bunches of leaves just to be on the safe side.

Here comes the sun

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.

Research conducted by the AA has shown that dazzle from the sun during early mornings and late evenings is responsible for the deaths of 28 drivers in the UK each year, and the injury of nearly 4,000 more.

Sun glare can have an impact on your sight for seconds after exposure, decreasing a driver’s ability to see pedestrians, oncoming traffic and even the car in from of them. It can also make it hard to see traffic lights, causing confusion where drivers aren’t sure whether or not they can stop or go.

It’s also worth noting that giving your windscreen a regular clean, both on the inside and outside, can go a long way to improving visibility. A dirty windscreen will “catch” more of the light and blank it out, reducing visibility even more.

Even though the summer season has gone, 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.

Problems aren’t just caused by too much light, however, but also by not enough. Once the clocks wind back towards the end of the month, the amount of daylight time we’ll have will reduce dramatically, meaning that drivers should be mindful of the darker evenings and mornings.

Beware bad weather

As if the British 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, particularly with the fallen leaves.

As a result, it’s advisable to ensure that your car is up to scratch by checking the working order of your wiper blades, tyres and brakes.

It’s also a good idea to have your car serviced if it’s due one, and Perrys offers a wide range of servicing and repair work to prepare your motor for the oncoming months.

Cold mornings can also lead to fog, which will greatly limit your visibility on the road and distance perception. 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 creating glare.

When driving through the fog, keep your speed low and stay well behind the car in front to give accurate time to stop if you need to.

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

Keep an eye out for animals

The autumn season brings about a rise in the amount of activity in the animal world, as they all prepare for the oncoming winter.

Around the countryside, it’s mating season for larger animals like deer and elks, so keep your eye out in rural areas for deer, which can tend to dart out into the middle of the road at a moment’s notice

Approximately 40,000 to 75,000 deer are killed on the roads every year. Such accidents can kill and injure car occupants too, and cause millions of pounds worth of damage to vehicles.

There are two peak times for deer accidents, the rutting season in October and in May when young deer disperse from their breeding areas. The worst times of the day are the twilight times at sunrise and sunset, so keep a watchful eye on the road ahead if you’re in an area populated by deer.

If you’re using full beam head-lights, 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 as they gather food stores for the winter, so slowing down particularly in wooded and countryside areas is advisable.

If you encounter any animals, it’s also good practice to alert oncoming drivers of the potential hazard by flashing your lights a couple of times or putting on your hazard lights briefly.

With all that in mind, it’s time to bust out the scarves and hats, start stocking up on fireworks and embrace what could just be the greatest season ever.

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