Autumn driving guide
The poet John Keats called it the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But for drivers, autumn might better be described as the season of sun glare and sudden nightfall.
Autumn rarely produces the extreme weather of winter, but it does deliver some unique and testing driving conditions and one or two unexpected dangers. Here’s all you need to know.
Autumn is particularly bad for “dazzle from low sun” says the AA, because at commuting times the sun can be low in the sky, shining directly into windscreens. Glare can also hit drivers suddenly, when a low sun hidden by trees or houses suddenly slides into view.
A driver’s best defence is to be prepared, and make sure windscreens are as clean as they can be, inside and out. Remember that windscreen wiper blades last for two years at most, and new blades clean more effectively, helping to reduce sun dazzle. Keep windscreen washer fluid topped up too.
It’s worth keeping a pair of sunglasses in the car, and always slow down immediately if dazzled by low sun.
Come the end of October, the gradual shortening of the days will be replaced by a sudden return to pitch dark commutes, especially in the evening. Prepare for the clocks going back by checking all lights, not forgetting brake and number plate lights. Change any bulbs that need replacing.
More driving in the dark means a heavier load on your battery. Consider replacing it if it shows any signs of struggling, especially if it’s more than five years old.
Hitting a deer is bad for you, bad for the deer, and bad for your car. Many injuries and occasional fatalities are caused by deer collisions, and October/November – rutting season in the deer calendar – is a peak time for accidents. So be deer aware, particularly if driving in countryside (even countryside close to towns and cities) around sunrise and after dusk.
“If you're using full beam head-lights, dip them if you see a deer, otherwise it may freeze in your path,” advises Saga magazine.
Take a leaf…
Americans don’t call it the fall for nothing. As leaves drop they accumulate, and add a rain shower or two and what you’re left with is a thick, slippery mulch. That affects your car’s traction on the road, and leaf piles can also cover road markings and disguise potholes.
Slow down if the road is covered in leaves, and make sure there’s plenty of stopping distance between you and the car in front. Remember that children love kicking through piles of leaves too, and may not always stick to the pavement.
As the autumn progresses, some of the tell-tale signs of winter start to emerge. Most importantly for drivers, the first frosts can make for unexpectedly treacherous conditions, particularly in the early morning.
Drive defensively in frosty conditions and make sure your tyres are up to the job. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm but the AA recommends you should have at least 3mm of tread for winter driving.
Predict the unpredictable
While autumn weather is rarely extreme, it is often unpredictable. A bright sunny afternoon can turn into dark skies and heavy rain in an instant. A low sun can suddenly break through a cloudy sky, sending blinding rays right through your windscreen. Cold mornings often lead to fog, which can greatly limit your driving visibility and perception of distance.
There’s not a lot you can do about any of this except be prepared. Expect the unexpected and be prepared to modify your speed and driving style accordingly. Err on the side of caution.
If you are in any doubt about the autumn road worthiness of your car, book it into an AutoCare or Approved Garage who will be happy to make sure your lights, wipers, battery and tyres are in tip top condition, giving you the peace of mind that only a well maintained car brings.
Take your car into any AutoCare garage for service, repair or MOT between October 1 and November 30 and grab your chance to win a brand new car (among many other prizes) in our Winter Giveaway.