Autumn leaves present driving hazards

Autumn is the picture-perfect time of year when many drivers take to the road to view the autumn colours.

Autumn is the picture-perfect time of year when many drivers take to the road to view the autumn colours.

The leaves are beautiful to see, but when wet or in piles on the roads, they present driving hazards unique to the season.

Most motorists know that puddles or standing water can cause loss of control, and they adjust their driving accordingly. But fewer drivers, especially inexperienced ones or drivers new to an area with heavy foliage, are aware of the dangers of wet leaves.

A single layer of wet leaves can make braking, steering and stopping difficult.

This effect is particularly dangerous at intersections and is intensified at downhill stop signs. Acceleration can be affected, too. Fishtailing can result on leaf-strewn interstate entrance ramps and other areas where hard accelerations may be necessary.

Even when dry, leaves can present a challenge. Piles of leaves can obscure potholes, curbs and street markings and even present a fire hazard should leaves contact a hot muffler or tailpipe.

“Add  these hazards to the fact that road conditions can change from ideal to miserable in a matter of minutes, and what you have is a potentially dangerous situation,” said Patty Kettles, manager of marketing and communications for Be Car Care Aware.

Drivers are reminded of the hazard and should prepare for fall driving conditions by having their vehicles’ tires, brakes and wipers checked before heading out on the road.

Tires can affect the car’s ride, handling, traction and safety, and are a critical connection between the car and the road in all types of driving conditions.

To maximize tire life and safety, check the inflation pressure and the tread depth, and inspect the sidewalls for cracks or punctures. As a general rule, tires should be rotated and balanced every 10,000 kilometres.

The brake system is the car’s most important safety system. Brakes are a normal wear item for any car, and brake linings, drums and rotors, as well as brake fluid, should be checked at each oil change.

To help ensure the performance and safety of wipers, blades should be replaced every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering. Windshield wiper fluid should be checked monthly and only washer fluid should be used.

October is National Car Safety Month in Canada and Be Car Care Aware Canada is focusing on vehicle safety and preventive maintenance throughout the month.