Best fall driving practices: school is in session

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, September 20, 2012

(ARA) – Fall is often associated with such pleasantries as back to school, beautiful foliage, a spooky Halloween and Thanksgiving feasts. What is often lost and forgotten are the safety hazards associated with the season while out on the roads.

Fifty-six percent of Americans are planning to take a fall road trip, and 51 percent are planning on driving at least 500 miles, according to Hankook Tire’s latest Quarterly Index. With all these miles being logged on U.S. highways and streets, it is best to take the proper precautions to ensure the safety of yourself, your family and those on the roads.

Slippery when wet: Fall foliage is, without a doubt, a grand sight. But once leaves hit the ground, raking isn’t your only concern. Speeding over wet leaves can lead to losing control of your car. In addition, fallen leaves can serve as prime cover for potholes and ditches which can result in flat tires, blowouts, or even more serious structural damage to your vehicle.  

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School is in session: With young children and teens back at school, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and be prepared for an increase in pedestrian traffic and school buses that make frequent stops. Hankook’s Gauge Index found that only 37 percent of people pay more attention behind the wheel when school is back in session. With decreased speed limits in school zones, school buses loading and unloading, youth biking to school, and the occasional free-spirited daredevils crossing streets at their own discretion, the reasons for being attentive during this time abound.

Trick or treat: Not paying attention while driving on Halloween can lead to a true fright fest. Forty-four percent of respondents say they drive more carefully when trick-or-treaters are out on Halloween. With excited kids on a sugar high patrolling the streets in all types of costumes, often in the dark, their safety is a prime concern. In fact, just last year Safe Kids USA released findings that showed on average, twice as many kids are killed while walking on Halloween as compared to any other day of the year.

Are you prepared?

Now that you are aware of some of the fall driving hazards, it’s time to properly prepare to hit the road with confidence. How so?

Disconnect: In this day and age more and more people are hyper-connected via smartphones and gadgets. Treat your road trips as a reprieve from the outside world and avoid texting while driving, which is cited as one of the biggest distractions for drivers amongst those polled.

Learn how to change a flat tire: In case you do hit that hidden pothole, being equipped with the knowledge of changing a tire can help avoid headaches and put you back on the road in no time. An easy way to learn is to have a friend or family member show you the ropes. But, don’t expect a helping hand from a stranger if stranded. Sixty-one percent of people have not stopped to help a fellow driver change a tire.

Check your tire pressure: Gone are the 90 degree summer days. Every 10 degree drop in air temperature can actually cause a vehicle’s tires to drop up to 2 pounds per square inch (psi) in tire pressure. Improper tire pressure can result in increased tread wear and lowered performance, factors that are exacerbated by wet leaves. Proper preparation is as simple as purchasing an air pressure gauge from your local auto repair store.