It’s fall season: the vibrant hues of leaves decorate the landscape – and hopefully, it’s here to last until sometime in November. It’s a picturesque backdrop to drive in. But in all its vibrancy, fall also comes with heavy rains and shorter days – factors that aren’t the ideal weather for driving.
With that in mind, this article explores some crucial safety tips for driving during the fall. These include driving in the rain, including nighttime driving and how to navigate highway driving.
But first things first, what are the fall driving hazards you should know?
General safety tips for driving in the rain
Whether you’re driving in the rain at night, on the highway, or for the first time, there are some safety tips that are consistent across all these scenarios.
Let’s dive in.
Ensure the windshield wipers are in perfect conditions
It’s not enough to check if your windshield wipers are working; ensure they’re working perfectly!
If your wipers leave streaks, skip, or move too slowly, it’s time to change them. You need all the visibility you can get to drive safely – faulty windshield wipers don’t help.
Headlights always on
The same goes for headlights: if your headlights are burned out, flickering, dull, or have poor beam strength, it’s time to change them.
You always need your low-beam headlights on while driving in the rain. It’s a matter of seeing the road as clearly as possible, as it’s also about staying visible to surrounding vehicles. If your vehicle has an automatic light setting, ensure that’s always turned on so your lights illuminate at the time of day when needed most. In heavier rain or darker conditions, you should also consider turning on your vehicle’s headlights rather than just your daytime running lights so that people behind you can clearly see your taillights as they come up behind you.
It should go without saying that when road conditions aren’t ideal you should drive slowly, but not to the point that you’re a hazard to other road users. Controlled speeds keep you in better control of your vehicle over slippery roads while allowing you more stopping distance. It also affords you more time to detect and react to hazards.
In the same vein, you should slow down gradually – not forcefully. Sudden movements of your steering wheel or braking too quickly can cause your vehicle to lose control. So, controlling changes in speed and being aware of your vehicle’s placement on the road is imperative.
Maintain a safe following distance
Animals crossing, tree limbs, and other obstacles on the road are some of the reasons a vehicle might suddenly stop on the road.
Tire traction – even for new tires – reduces significantly on wet roads. Consequently, you might be unable to stop quickly enough to avoid a collision if you’re following a vehicle too closely.
The standard rule of thumb is the two-second rule. This suggests drivers measure the distance between themselves and the vehicle in front by using a landmark to gauge the distance from their vehicle to the one in front.
Maintain up to twice the usual following distance so you have enough room for sudden stops.
Extra caution with puddles
At best, puddles are a concentration of water on a shallow indentation on the road. Other times, they are deceptive pools hiding dangerous potholes or obstacles that could be dangerous for your tires.
If there’s enough room, drive around them. Be sure to stay aware of your surroundings and ensure other vehicles on the road are at a safe distance when doing so.
It’s not the time for cruise control
Cruise control is intended for highway driving and provides a relaxing experience when you’re on dry roads that pose no threats of slipperiness. With wet roads, you’re far better off maintaining manual control of your vehicle.
Tips for driving in the rain at night
Driving in the rain is in itself a risky venture. Throw nighttime into the equation, and you have an even riskier situation.
Below are tips for rainy night conditions and how to significantly minimize the chances of accidents:
1. Be extra alert and focused
Nighttime driving requires loads of attention and loads more when it’s raining.
- Keep your phone aside, lower the volume of your radio/music player, and don’t reach for objects that take your eyes away from the road, not even for a second.
- Minimize the distracting effects of glares from oncoming headlights by keeping slightly to the right side while using the solid white line as a guide.
2. Keep your windshield clear at all times
This is where your perfectly working windshield wipers come into play. Also, consider getting anti-fog spray for blurry condensations that might form on the interior side of the windshield.
3. Dim your dashboard lights
Bright dashboard lights are a potential form of distraction for your peripheral vision. It could also cause reflective glare on your windshield, further impeding visibility.
Tips for driving in the rain for the first time
Are you preparing to drive in the rain for the first time? Don’t fret; it may be daunting, but it’s manageable with the proper knowledge.
Here’s our tips for those first-time rain encounters on the road:
1. Practice, practice…and practice some more
To get a feel for the rain, it would be best if you practiced in an empty parking lot, a private road, or a nearby road that’s usually empty. The point is to gain enough confidence and experience to drive on wet, main roads when it’s raining.
Some things to also learn include:
2. Check weather forecasts and plan accordingly
As a first timer, driving in heavy rains might be out of your comfort zone, even if you have been practicing. Check the forecasts to know what degree of rain to expect. If heavy rain is on the radar, it might be best to sit it out or arrange another driver.
3. Be calm and confident
Conditions can be ideal when you leave, but we all know they can change quickly. Getting caught in heavy rains can be very intimidating, but it’s always best to stay calm – don’t panic. Maintain a firmer grip and put yourself in a state of mind that helps you stay in control.
Tips for driving in the rain on the highway
Vehicles are usually faster on highways, and highway roads pose higher risks of hydroplaning. Here are some safety tips for driving in the rain on the highway:
1. Ensure your tires are in good condition
Before you hit the highways, ensure your tires are well-inflated and have significant tread depth. Better tires mean better traction and better control on wet highway roads.
2. Maintain your speed
Highways have busier traffic and vehicles travelling at considerably higher speeds, even during the rain.
- Don’t slow down or increase your speed suddenly.
- Consistent speed also helps you maintain a safe following distance.
- Maintaining consistent speed also reduces the risk of hydroplaning or losing control when hydroplaning.
3. Watch out for the sprays
Sprays from other vehicles are almost unavoidable when driving on the rain-soaked highways. Use your windshield wipers liberally and stay calm in the split second that the spray blocks your visibility.
Must-know fall driving hazards in Canada
Below are brief insights into some other hazards – besides rain – that make fall an accident-prone season.
Migrating animals in a daze
The fall season records some of the most accidents with wildlife in Canada, as it’s usually around the time that moose, elks, deer, and mountain sheep mate and migrate across Canada.
Around this time, the animals are jerked from their summer days of lazing about, either getting in a rut or migrating to areas that promise more favourable winter conditions, according to the Wildlife Collision Prevention Program (WCPP) Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s HWW.
This means that sometimes they’re dashing across the road, and with poor fall conditions, you might not see them soon enough. It’s no surprise that there are lots of wildlife accidents and slippery conditions are not favourable for drivers or wildlife.
Pretty leaves, slippery roads
With falling leaves and rainstorms that shake leaves off the trees during fall, some of these wet leaves fall on the roadways.
Wet leaves on road surfaces are nearly as slippery as ice and could be difficult for an experienced driver to maneuver. It’s important to be alert and scan the roads you’re travelling on for hazards.
Thick fogs veil Canadian dawns during fall. And that’s an outright visibility issue that makes driving a herculean chore for most.
Come rain or shine, Westland Insurance is always here to protect you and your vehicle
As always, we’re here to help you with all your personal and auto insurance needs. We keep things as simple as possible so you have a better grasp of the insurance policies and what’s best for you. Contact one of our insurance professionals today to learn about the best coverage for your needs.