Fall is such a great time of year in West Michigan… football games, sweater weather, visiting local pumpkin patches and the crisp autumnal air. For many people, it is undoubtedly their favorite time of year but drivers on the greater Grand Rapids roads, it can be a challenging time to navigate safely to all our needed destinations. Fortunately, with a little heads up and added attention to these common problems with Fall driving, we can hopefully skip any unwanted stress and just enjoy one of the beautiful landscape that Fall has to offer in West Michigan.
On the trees or in people’s yards, leaves are a spectacular display of mother nature’s color creations but on area roadways, they can become an unexpected hazard, particularly when they are wet. Leaves can retain moisture even if there has not been recent precipitation, compacted by the density of piling and can end up being just as slippery as ice. Be on the lookout for piles people have raked into the road, ones that have blown into the street or in where you’re likely to encounter fallen leaves in rural areas.
Less Daylight & The Trifecta of Darkness
After the Summer Solstice, days slowly begin to get shorter and the lengths of dark grow longer. In addition, the end of Daylight Savings Time leads to darkness falling very early in the evening, causing many drivers to manage their trek to and from work in the dark or at least in lower light as the months progress. And this doesn’t even take into account that late Fall in Grand Rapids can yield much more cloud cover, stealing the limited direct sunlight we should be getting during the day. Remember to use your headlights more often during Fall and Winter months, particularly during inclement weather and at dusk or dawn. Also, it’s important to know if your vehicles automatical headlights result in your tail lights being turned on. Maybe drivers forget that while they can see, it’s just as important to be seen.
Deer On The Move
Deer are a problem on roadways during Fall but more so in Kent and Barry County. It’s important to be watching for deer, particularly at dusk and dawn which is their most active time of the day. Be especially alert during these times and on the lookout for telltale signs of glowing eyes reflecting on the side of the road. Experts also recommend slowing down in highly deer dense areas which will help give you a chance to spot them before encountering them. It also helps decrease the amount of damage it causes if you do happen to hit one. If you do spot one, remember that deer travel in groups, meaning it’s unlikely that there will be just one crossing the road. If you see one, slow down and look for more that may dart across the road to follow. If you do encounter one, keep your steering wheel steady and do not ever veer for deer. It may be natural instinct to try and avoid an obstacle in the road but doing so may cause you to leave the roadway and hit a tree or cross the center line and strike another vehicle head-on. While it may seem like a good idea, veering to avoid a deer is the opposite of what you should do. Instead, brake firmly and calmly while staying in your own lane.
You’ve heard the saying… there are two seasons in Michigan, winter and construction. This holds true when it comes to Fall as it does in Summer. Be aware that some construction projects may have been delayed and taking longer than anticipated. Use caution in construction areas, especially knowing you might encounter some of the other fall hazards there as well.
Fall temps can vary greatly with drivers having to use their heat in the morning, air conditioning at lunchtime and heat again on the drive home. If there’s one thing us Michiganders have come to understand is that Fall brings it all… rain, heat, cold, snow and wind. Understand how that heat can affect your tire pressure and check your tires often to make sure they have the recommended air pressure. Something to also consider is how the temps often change the way that precipitation collects on West Michigan’s roadways. Rain can freeze as ice but appear to simply be wet and snow can melt initially in warmer roads and freeze later after their temperature has dropped. During Fall, it’s more important than ever to not assume roads are safe just because they appear to be.
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