Fall is a beautiful time of year in Colorado. The shifting colors in the mountain foliage create a majestic landscape, and the cooler temperatures serve as a welcome relief for those individuals who have grown tired of the intense summer heat. Autumn is frequently referred to as a season of change and transformation, and as motorists begin to notice alterations in the environment around them, they should also modify their driving behavior in ways that will help keep themselves and other parties on the road safe. Between the time change, fallen leaves, temperature drops, and increased wildlife presence, drivers will face a few new obstacles to contend with on the road as fall comes fully into bloom.
If you are a motorist who wants to safely adapt to driving in the new autumn surroundings, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:
Prepare for the Time Change
Daylight Saving Time is nearing its end (the clocks get set back on the first Sunday in November), and this means that there will be fewer hours of daylight. Diminished visibility makes driving in the dark a bit more challenging than navigating the roads when it’s light outside, but you can easily stay safe by taking the precautions highlighted below:
- Turn your headlights on an hour before sunset, and keep them on an hour after sunrise.
- Use your high beams if you are traveling through dimly lit areas. You can avoid blinding other drivers by turning them off within 500 feet of oncoming vehicles and within 200 feet of vehicles that you are following.
- If the glare from oncoming headlights obscures your vision, you can look slightly down to the right while using the road lines to help you stay centered until the vehicle passes.
- Keep your windshield and mirrors clean. Streaks and residue can worsen glare when driving in the dark, so try your best to keep your visibility clear by cleaning these surfaces on a regular basis.
- Watch for pedestrians and bicyclists. It’s always important to keep an eye out for non-motorists, but it can be especially difficult to see them at night if they are also wearing dark clothing.
- Avoid driving if you are tired. Drowsy driving is often worsened by the sleep-inducing effects of the dark, so try and postpone your travels if you are finding it difficult to stay alert.
Me Mindful of Driving with Wet Leaves on the Road
One of the tell-tale signs that fall is here is the presence of leaves on the ground. This occurrence is part of what makes autumn such a charming time of year, but drivers face similar risks when driving on wet leaves as they do when navigating icy roads. Wet leaves can make the roads extremely slippery, and they can also accumulate to the point where they cover road markings and potholes.
To stay safe, you should reduce your speed, increase your following distance, and ensure that your tires have adequate tread. If you experience a skid, take your foot off the brake and the gas pedals and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want your vehicle to go. If your vehicle doesn’t align adequately at first, you can turn the wheel again in the other direction to help position it correctly.
Avoid Parking on Dry Piles of Leaves
Giant piles of leaves are a festive sight to behold, but parking on them can actually be quite hazardous. A vehicle’s exhaust system gets incredibly hot, and if that heat were to come into contact with dry leaves (or any type of dry material), a fire could occur. This can ruin a vehicle and even cause serious harm to people in the area, so do your best to make sure that the coast is clear before deciding where to pull over and park your car.
Plan Around Morning Frost
As the weather cools down, you may find that your vehicle is covered with frost in the mornings. If you’re running late, the last thing you want to do is take the time to scrape your windshield or wait for the defroster to do its job, but driving with an obstructed view is dangerous and also illegal in the state of Colorado. If you want to avoid this common but frustrating experience, take frost into consideration when planning your morning commute. Leaving a few minutes earlier than usual can ensure that you are able to clear your windshield and arrive at your destination on time.
Watch for Increased Wildlife Presence on the Roads
Various forms of wildlife wander onto Colorado roads during all four seasons, but they are especially more likely to be seen by motorists during the fall. Collisions involving wild animals occur every year, but the good news is that there are plenty of precautions you can take to help prevent this unfortunate scenario.
Here are a few helpful items to keep in mind:
- Wild animals are more active during dusk and dawn, so be especially attentive when you are driving during these hours.
- Take note of wildlife-crossing signs. These are placed in areas where animals are more likely to meander onto the road, so slow down and be especially attentive when you come across these warnings.
- If you stop to allow one deer to cross, wait a few moments before moving forward. Deer often travel in groups, so there could be others trailing behind.
- Use your high beams in poorly lit areas to increase visibility, and continuously glance at the upcoming shoulders and road to see if any animals are lurking around.
Autumn is a majestic time of year in Colorado, but with the regality comes a few extra obstacles for drivers to contend with behind the wheel. By following safety measures when driving in the dark, minimizing the risks associated with fallen leaves, incorporating the presence of frost into morning travel plans, and being mindful of wild animals crossing the roads, you’ll be able to enjoy driving during the fall while also curbing the unique risks and stress that this beautiful season poses.
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