Preparing Your Employees for Driving in Autumn

As the days grow shorter and temperatures drop, it’s time for changes in how we drive as we transition from summer to fall. With this switch in seasons, we might need to adjust more than we think!

The Trickiness of Temperature—and Falling Leaves

The most obvious change, of course, is that the temperature is getting colder. What was once dew in early mornings or late evenings might now be frost or near-frost on road surfaces, making for slippery surprises.

  • Watch for iciness and freezing fog, especially on bridges and overpasses, which don’t have insulating layers underneath. Curvy roads and places with dappled sun can harbor potentially icy spots that are practically invisible until you’re right on them.

  • Don’t assume you know what’s on the roadway: Use caution and slow down before you enter curves or other tricky areas.

  • Don’t forget to use your vehicle’s thermometer. Glancing at this underused digital number on your dashboard can give you clues as to what’s underneath your tires, especially when weather conditions are changing fast or if temperatures are hovering right around freezing.

  • Did you know that wet leaves can be as slippery as ice? If you’re traveling in places where many leaves have fallen and they’re wet with autumn rain, treat them like ice or frost.

  • And watch for leaf-gawkers! If you live in a place where the fall colors are spectacular, you may need to have a little extra patience for distracted, slower drivers.

  • Incidentally, try to avoid parking among leaf piles. A car’s hot exhaust system can inadvertently ignite dry leaves and start a fire.

Watching Out for Wildfires

Speaking of fire, we all know that our world’s climate is changing. That means the season for wildfires and hurricanes is shifting, with dangerous conditions that often start earlier in the summer and extend later in the fall.

  • Stay informed! If threats are imminent, listen to the news or consult wildfire maps. Know what routes you’re taking and if they may be affected. With wildfires in particular, conditions can change frighteningly fast, and it may be best to delay travel altogether.

  • If you live in or are regularly traveling through areas with excessive wildfire smoke, change your vehicle’s air filters more frequently. That goes for both the cabin and engine.

The Dangers of Daylight Savings Time

In many parts of the world, fall is the time when we set our clocks back one hour for daylight savings time. Although this time change might seem minor, its effects on our health and internal time-clocks are surprisingly significant and deadly, with serious consequences for traffic safety. Research shows that vehicle crashes and pedestrian deaths spike during this time and for weeks afterward, because both more pedestrians and cars are sharing the roads in darkness, especially during peak early-morning and late-afternoon commuting times.

  • Watch for nonvehicular road users like pedestrians (especially children), bicyclists, and motorcyclists, who are always difficult to see, but even more so when it’s dark.

  • If you’re a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist yourself, wear light- or bright-coloured, high-visibility clothing, reflectors, safety vests, or lighting that helps others see you.

  • You’re more likely to be fatigued on these dark afternoons, so stay extra vigilant when you’re travelling between school or work at this time.

  • Keep your full headlights on all the time (not just daytime running lamps) so you can be seen, both front and back.

  • Keep your dashboard lights turned down low so you can better see what’s happening outside your vehicle when it’s dark outside.

  • The shorter daylight hours, reduced sun, and longer periods of darkness can trigger SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in some people. This may manifest as fatigue and depression, which can mean more distracted, irritable road users. Drivers may be feeling more stressed and engaging in substance abuse, which can affect behaviour behind the wheel and risktaking. And it’s important to realize how it can affect you as a driver as well as those you encounter on the roads at this time of the year. Be compassionate, patient, alert, and proactive.

Watch Out for Wildlife

Another fall hazard that drivers often don’t think about is wildlife, especially in rural areas. This is a busy time for many creatures, who are migrating or finding food to build up fat stores for their winter hibernation. For some animals like deer, it’s also hunting and mating season and they may be acting unpredictably as a result.

  • Watch for animals at dusk and at night. Many animals are nocturnal and are more active at twilight. Slow down, heed posted wildlife-crossing signs, and actively scan for creatures, especially at the edges of forests and meadows.

  • Pay attention to what the traffic ahead of you is doing, don’t follow too closely, and be helpful to others behind you if you see animal activity (such as using your hazard flashers to warn them).

  • If the animal is the size of a deer or smaller, don’t swerve to avoid it. No, really—you’re much more likely to be injured or killed trying to avoid it than if you just hit it head-on. However, if it is bigger than a deer, do try to avoid it if at all possible—physics is not on your side in this instance.

  • If it is safe, try emergency braking to avoid hitting wildlife. This means that the road is not slippery and no one is close behind you. Your antilock brakes are far more effective in stopping you in shorter distances than you think, and even if you can’t avoid the animal completely, braking hard can scrub off speed, which helps you avoid serious injury or worse.


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