Autumn Driving Advice & Safety Tips

From dealing with a low sun or foggy windscreen, to icy roads and the wrong tyre pressures, driving in the UK in the Autumn can be hazardous. One day it can feel like balmy spring the next arctic winter, so it is wise to stay one step ahead of these major seasonal switches in driving conditions. Here are the most important factors to consider.

Driving on slippery roads

Autumn roads are often wet and fallen leaves can be extremely slippery. Fallen foliage is also a major visual hindrance, obscuring road markings or hazards such as any road deterioration and potholes. So you need to be extra cautious when a road is wet and covered in fallen foliage. When driving on a slippery road, you should always slow down, and consider the following points:

  • Drive 5 to 10 mph slower than normal on a wet road.
  • Drive half your normal speed on snow-covered roads.
  • Drive as slowly as possible on an icy road.
  • Take turns slowly and with ease, without accelerating.
  • Keep a larger distance behind the vehicle in front.
  • Stop and accelerate gradually. Not abruptly.
  • Morning frosts can create icy black spots, particularly on shaded areas, exposed roads and across bridges.

Driving in deer breeding season

Britain’s deer populations are expanding, yet most of us see them very rarely if at all, but during the Autumn deer breed (rut), so they are much more noticeable due to their need to move around to find a mate. As such you should:

  • Be extra careful when driving through rural and woodland areas.
  • Drive cautiously at sunrise and sunset when deer are most active.
  • Pay close attention to deer crossing signs.
  • Stay alert if you spot a deer, there will be others around.
  • Look out for the group.
  • Take extra precautions when driving at night, slow down, full beam lights.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collision.


Related Reading: Key Safety Tips When Driving In Poor Weather Conditions


Driving in low temperatures

Although it isn’t deep darkest Winter, any Autumnal day can bring treacherous driving conditions due to driving rain, hail or snow, sub-zero temperatures and icy roads. However, if you prepare adequately and drive sensibly the chances of any sort of accident are minimised:

  • Anticipate what is in front of you and drive smoothly, especially on icy roads.
  • Look well ahead for any potential hazards so you have time to react / slow down in time.
  • Accelerate, brake, steer and change gears smoothly to reduce the risk of skidding.
  • When driving on ice, a higher gear is often more appropriate to provide additional grip.
  • A higher gear also helps mitigate sudden speed or direction changes and prevents the car from stalling.
  • Ensure your car has the appropriate fluids for cold weather driving.
  • Ensure the tyre pressures are right for your vehicle and for Autumn driving, i.e. lower pressure to improve grip and stability.

Driving in low sun

The glare from the sun in Autumn can be particularly hazardous as it is so low in the sky. Remember two key points to note: 1) if the sun is behind you, then it’s in the eyes of drivers coming towards you, 2) if it’s in your eyes it’s probably blinding drivers following you too, so be careful:

  • Make sure your windscreen is clean, both inside (removing the typical Autumn residue) and outside (by topping up you windscreen cleaner).
  • Get rid of any scratches or chips on the glass as these can significantly intensify the sun’s glare.
  • Replace windscreen wiper blades if they are worn down, damaged, or generally ineffective.
  • Keep a pair of sunglasses in the car, and use your sun visors when appropriate.
  • Slow down if the glare is affecting your ability to see the road and conditions ahead.
  • Use headlights to help others see your vehicle on the road.


Related Reading: Get Your Car Ready For Spring


Driving in rain and floods

Any rain reduces your visibility of the road ahead, to the sides and behind. It also increases stopping distances required for braking. In the Autumn this is more prevalent as the weather is so much more predictable. As a general rule:

  • Double the distance between you and the car in front for a safe braking zone.
  • Should the steering feel light or unresponsive ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually.
  • Do not cross deep water and in flooded areas if you do drive through standing water do so very slowly but stay in a higher gear, i.e. higher revs to avoid stalling.
  • Ensure you have plenty of screenwash as rain that sprays up from other vehicles also brings up mud and dirt.
  • Clear leaves from your vehicle, especially below the windscreen as they can block drainage vents.

Driving in fog

Fog creates one of the most dangerous driving conditions possible because in essence you are driving blind after a certain distance of minimal visibility. It makes it incredibly difficult to anticipate what is ahead, spot hazards and judge distance because the fog can create an optical illusion on the road where drivers can misjudge their own speed or have a hard time determining if other cars are moving:

  • Slow down and drive patiently, reducing speed and increasing braking distance so you have more time to react.
  • Avoid driving all together if the fog gets too thick, it is just not worth the risk.
  • Use your fog lights or a low beam setting, do not use high or full beams.
  • Pay very close attention to your surroundings and avoid distractions in the car.
  • Ensure you are firmly in sight of what is ahead of you and if it is too close for you to react don’t risk it.


Related Reading: Top Tips For Driving In Winter


Driving in strong winds

Driving in strong winds should be avoided if conditions are going to be too hazardous as it can be a very dangerous and scary experience. But if you have to drive, and if the route is not too exposed to high winds then do so with extreme caution:

  • At all times keep both hands on the wheel, you never know when a sudden gust will throw the car offline.
  • Be prepared for stronger winds and gusts on exposed stretches of road or when you pass high-sided vehicles.
  • Drive slowly as strong gusts won’t then blow you as far off your driving path.
  • Keep your distance from other vehicles, especially high-sided vehicles and caravans that are particularly vulnerable to wind.
  • Watch out for accidents and fallen debris such as branches, trees, cables, that can cause road disruption / closures.
  • Plan your journey carefully, check the route, the weather and your car for all it will need to make the journey and potentially any delays.

Driving with the right tyre safety

In all seasons, tyres are vitally important to the safe driving of a vehicle. But in Autumn this is even more important as the weather changes, road conditions worsen and on any journey you can come up against any different combination of situations that dictate having the right tyre pressure and grip is essential.

  • Check tyre pressures once per month, or after any long journey. The tyre pressure recommended by the manufacturer should be adhered to strictly for optimum performance and safety.
  • Check your tread depth regularly. If it drops below 3mm you should think about getting your tyres replaced. This is critical in the colder months when road surfaces require more grip.
  • Check for irregular wear or damage. Check for flat spots, cracks, cuts, irregular tread degradation and objects lodged in the tyre tread, and check the tyre wall rim for damage. 

There is much to love about Autumn in the UK, from the season’s colour from the falling leaves to the first early morning frost. But the arrival of Autumn also brings hazards to the roads. Be prepared for these challenges, plan your journeys, make sure your car is equipped to cope and drive sensibly.

Stay safe on the roads this Autumn. Look after yourself, your family and your car!


Related Reading: Top Tips For Driving At Night


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