Fall is a great time of year to hit the open road, as fall foliage is colorful and provides a wonderful backdrop for weekend getaways, while the mild temperatures of fall make this an ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors.
Though autumn is often a mild time of year regarding weather, fall foliage enthusiasts can still encounter adverse conditions on road trips. According to the automotive group AAA, wet pavement contributes to nearly 1.2 million traffic accidents each year. When combined with fall leaves, wet pavement poses an even greater threat to drivers and their passengers.
Autumn and precipitation do not necessarily go hand in hand, but drivers should still exercise caution during the fall road trip season so they can better handle roadways that are wet and covered in fallen leaves.
Do not use cruise control. Because fall foliage can be so stunning to experience, many drivers are tempted to use the cruise control feature on their automobiles so they can pay more attention to the array of colors at their disposal. But cruise control should never be engaged when driving on wet roads or roads that may be covered in leaves. Such conditions require drivers to focus their undivided attention on the road ahead of them. When drivers suddenly encounter slick roads, easing off the accelerator rather than quickly applying the brakes can be the safest response, but such a response is impossible when cruise control is engaged.
Drive slowly. Many fall road trippers are already driving slowly so they can fully enjoy the fall scenery. But it’s important that drivers slow down even more when encountering wet roadways, as driving slow can reduce the risk of a vehicle hydroplaning. When vehicles hydroplane, they slide uncontrollably on wet surfaces as the tires rise up on the water covering the roads. AAA notes that tires on vehicles driving as slow as 35 miles per hour can still lose some contact with the road, so drivers should maintain low speeds when driving on wet roads and reduce their speeds even further during heavy rains.
Resist the urge to brake quickly. When drivers feel themselves losing control, many respond by braking quickly. But hard braking and quick turns can increase the risk that a vehicle will hydroplane. And even if the vehicle does not hydroplane, motorists may have a hard time controlling it when slamming on the brakes. When encountering wet roads, brake slowly and maintain low speeds until the roads dry off.
Leave ample room between vehicles. Because braking quickly on wet roadways can increase the risk of accident, it’s important that drivers leave ample room between their vehicles and the vehicles in front of them. Afford other drivers the space to brake slowly just like you hope the drivers behind you are doing. Avoid overcrowded roadways during especially wet weather.