Fall may be Canada's most beautiful season - a great time to go for a drive just to enjoy the scenery. But it brings with it its own driving challenges, which include falling temperatures, falling leaves, changing weather conditions and reduced hours of daylight. Here are some tips on how to prepare for Fall's challenges and deal with them when they materialize.
1. Install Winter tires now!
Yes, winter driving is a whole season away, but this is Canada and Fall is a prelude to winter, the conditions of which can arrive almost any time throughout the period. So, get prepared before it catches you out. As soon as the temperature regularly drops below 7oC, it's time to install winter tires – on all four wheels, not just two. At the same time, it's a good idea to install new wiper blades and carry out routine maintenance such as changing oil and checking all fluids. Always be sure to have an ample supply of washer fluid, including a spare container for emergency use. Check your safety kit as well, to make sure that it's up to date.
2. Remember that school is in
Be prepared and watch for school zones, as well as children going or coming from school or playing along the roadside on the way to or from. Be alert for school buses and their frequent stops as well. And keep in mind that you must stop and remain stopped while their lights are flashing, on all but divided highways in most jurisdictions.
3. Don't be blinded by the sun
As we get deeper into Fall, sunrise comes progressively later and sunset earlier resulting in fewer hours of daylight. In addition, the sun spends proportionately more time lower in the sky - often directly in your line of vision. During those periods it can be blinding if you're driving toward it. Be sure to wear high-quality sun-glasses in those conditions and adjust sun-visors to minimize the glare. Keep the windshield clean, too as dirt on the glass - both inside and out - can amplify the glare.
4. Adjust to lower light
As the hours of daylight decrease, you'll probably be doing more driving in dusk or dark conditions – perhaps even driving to and from work in the dark. Be sure all your lights are working properly and keep them clean. The plastic covers over most of today's headlights can become clouded or pitted with time so it's a good idea to have them cleaned and polished. Be sure to keep all your lights on all the time – not just the automatic Daytime Running Lights, which in many vehicles leave the tail-lights off.
5. Watch out for the leaves
While Fall leaves can be a feast for the eyes while on the trees, they can present a safety hazard when they fall to the ground. Leaves on the roadway, especially when they're wet, can be as slippery as ice so treat them with the same caution. Piles of leaves along the edge of the road can also obscure hidden hazards so steer clear of them.
6. Beware of cyclists, pedestrians and animals
It's not just school kids that are more likely to be on or near the road in the Fall. As the weather cools, it's ideal weather for people to take a walk, go jogging or take a bicycle ride - often without bright clothing that would help make them visible. If you're driving through an area where wildlife is plentiful, animals such as racoons or even deer might also make an unexpected appearance. Be wary. And if you see one, expect there to be more.
7. Be prepared for fog and rain
Fog and rain are inevitable facts of life in the Fall. Be prepared for both and adjust your driving accordingly. Reduce your speed to correspond with the reduced visibility and increase the space behind the vehicle ahead to provide more time to react. If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights, use them, and be sure your headlights are on low, not high beam. In the rain, be cautious of puddles that can jerk at the steering wheel when you hit them, be prepared for visibility to be impaired from other vehicles' road spray as well, and adjust your speed to account for reduced traction.
8. Be vigilant for frost and ice
Inevitably, overnight temperatures tend to drop in the Fall, often dipping below the freezing point, at least temporarily. Those conditions are ideal for creating isolated spots of frost or black ice - particularly on sheltered areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses. Be aware of that possibility and extra cautious in areas that might be susceptible.