In between our state’s bright, sunny summers and mild winters, the fall season brings unpredictable climatic changes that can make for treacherous conditions on the road. While we look forward to the changing leaves and the cooler weather, we also know that autumn in Texas brings a special set of risks for car accidents.
Fall Driving Dangers in Texas
Fall weather is beautiful if you’re on a walk in the woods or gazing out your window. But when you’re behind the wheel, it can mean lowered visibility, slippery road surfaces and sometimes serious storms.
Weather isn’t the only factor that makes for fall driving dangers in Texas. The increase of traffic resulting from students and teachers heading back to school creates additional potential for accidents involving pedestrians.
Awareness is always the key to navigating the roads safely. The following list of safety tips for the approaching fall season can help you to avoid weather-related car accidents. By refreshing your fall driving skills with the tips below, you can be assured of enjoying the changing season while keeping our community safe.
Back to School Traffic
- Prepare to share the road with more cars, buses and pedestrians when driving during school hours. If possible, adjust your commute time to avoid school-related traffic.
- Never pass a school bus with its stop sign out or flashers on.
- Be mindful of bicycle traffic – they have a legal right to share the road with cars.
- Make a drop-off and pick-up plan with your kids so that they don’t have to wander through parking lots or through traffic looking for you.
- Put down your phone, especially in a school zone.
- Check the forecast before you leave, even on short trips. A drizzle can turn into a storm within a few minutes.
- Plan to take a little more time for your commute. Even light rain will raise oil from the surface of the road, making the surface slippery and dangerous. Going slower will protect you from hydroplaning or skidding.
- Keep your lights on while driving in the rain.
- Give other vehicles extra space. An extra 1 to 2 seconds of following time behind other vehicles on the road will give everyone more time to react to changes in traffic.
- Anticipate gusts and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Heavy winds can often accompany rain.
- Give large vehicles, especially trucks or school buses, a respectful distance. Vehicles of this size are more vulnerable to heavy weather and may have trouble staying in their lanes.
- Don’t be a looky-loo. A sudden slow-down while driving to observe beautiful changing leaves can cause an accident. If you want to take a fall foliage drive, do it when traffic is lighter and keep your speed consistent.
- Slow down and exercise extra caution when driving across a leaf-strewn road. Fallen, wet leaves can be as slick and dangerous as ice; in dry weather, they can obscure pavement markings and potholes.
- Slow down and keep a greater distance behind the car in front of you when driving through fog. Misty mornings mean serious fall driving dangers since fog limits driving visibility and can change your perception of distance.
- Know where to expect fog. When headed toward a dip in the road or an area surrounded by hills, mountains, trees or water, prepare to slow down and use extra caution.
- Don’t put on your high beams. A common mistake, the extra brightness from high beams will bounce off the vapor in the air, creating a glare that actually makes visibility worse. Stick to your low beams and slow your speed.
- Exercise extra caution if you notice a chill in the air, especially during the morning hours, it could mean frost on the ground. Also, a drop in temperature at night but the next day’s weather is warm, these are the perfect conditions for roads slick with frost.
- Don’t leave the driveway until you have fully defrosted your windshield and back windows and regained visibility.
- Frost occurs first on bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of the road. When approaching one of these, slow your speed and keep a firm grip on the wheel.
- Check your tire pressure. Changing temperatures mean rapid expansion and contraction of your tires. This can lead to a loss in pressure, a significant hazard on slick roads.
- Be aware that the change of season brings a change in solar patterns. You may find the sun in your eyes in places where it never used to bother you.
- When hit by sun glare, give yourself a moment to recover before proceeding with your drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers often describe being “blinded” for a few moments after sun glare, which can lead to accidents or near misses.
- Avoid using car care products that increase gloss. High-gloss washing and waxing products make your vehicle more prone to glare, posing a safety risk for yourself and other drivers.
- Autumn is a prime time for deer migration and mating. Be alert for deer and other wildlife darting across the road, particularly in the morning or at night.
- Know the telltale signs and keep an eye on the forecast. Tornadoes pose one of the most serious fall driving dangers in Texas. If you notice a dark, greenish cast to the sky or sense that the air has become abnormally still, check the weather report and adjust your driving plans accordingly.
- If you are driving during the onset of a tornado, get off the road as soon as possible. Rather than simply pulling over, get to the nearest rest stop or a protected area. Avoid bridges or tunnels, which are more dangerous in high winds.
- If you cannot get to a safe indoor area (such as a basement or cellar), stay in your car, keep your seat belt on, and position your head below the window. Cover your head with your hands or a blanket.
- Be prepared. Keep a tornado kit in your car with a blanket, an extra jacket, a flashlight with extra batteries and a phone charger.
By observing these fall driving tips, we can all make sure that we safely enjoy our beautiful Texas autumn.