Winter has famously treacherous driving conditions, but fall is the season that takes most people by surprise. Though there’s no ice and snow on the ground yet, shorter days and overnight frosts catch even the most experienced drivers off guard.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as we ease into fall and winter driving.
Take it slow in the morning
It may reach a pleasant 60 degrees in the afternoon, but overnight frosts can linger into late morning in some areas. Be extra cautious on bridges, ramps, shady areas and roads covered in leaves. These areas can hide surprising slick spots that aren’t obvious until it’s too late.
Double goes for anytime there’s precipitation. “Wet” can transform into “icy nightmare” with only a small drop in temperature.
Did you forget how to drive on snow?
It happens to all of us. We think we know what we’re doing after driving through 20 winters, until the guy in front of us slams on the brakes and we realize too late that we were too close.
Everyone needs to relearn how to drive on snow each year. Give other cars (and pedestrians and bikes) plenty of extra space while everyone remembers snow and ice rules.
Ice comes in many forms
Black ice is perhaps the most dangerous ice, but ice comes in many forms, like ice hidden under fresh snow, polished ice from stop-and-go traffic at intersections and ice that was a puddle when you drove through that intersection a few hours ago.
Regard anything that isn’t plainly dry road as a potential spinout hazard.
Snowplows are your friends
There may be no winter driving maneuver more dangerous than passing a snowplow in poor conditions. Let them do their jobs. It’s better to be 10 minutes late than to be upside-down in a ditch.
Prepare a winter emergency kit
All cars should carry most if not all of the following: Shovel, ice scraper, kitty litter (for traction), flashlight, blanket, nonperishable food (e.g., energy bars), spare cellphone charger, first aid kit and jumper cables.
It’s rare to make it through an entire winter without at least a low-speed bumper tap or two. If you’re involved in something worse, consult an attorney to discuss your options.