Safety tips for autumn driving

A motorist heads home after a long day at the office. As she turns west, the sun glare temporarily blinds her.

Struggling to see, she reaches for her sunglasses and notices what looks like a small child riding a bike across the road in front of her.

Hitting the brakes, it takes a couple nerve-wracking moments for her to realize nothing tragic happened, and she safely makes her way home.

Because the sun rises and sets closer to the horizon and almost exactly east and west in the fall, driving can be difficult and, in some cases, dangerous.

Driving to and from work can be more hazardous when the sun glare exists at certain times of the day.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is reminding motorists to adapt to changing light patterns that accompany the end of daylight saving time.

Fewer hours of daylight may make it difficult for drivers to see pedestrians, bicyclists and school children walking and playing outdoors.

While it may seem obvious, it is a seasonal concern that needs extra attention.

Intense glare from the sun on the horizon has the potential to blind drivers, causing unexpected slow downs.

Motorists can better prepare for this glare by keeping their windshield clean, using their visor, and keeping a pair of sunglasses in the vehicle.

Other potential safety hazards exist every year as well, like wet, fallen leaves and frost.

Autumn driving has its own unique set of challenges, Michigan Department of Transportation officials said.

Michigan Department of Transportation experts offer the following autumn driving safety tips:

– Make adjustments for the light. Did you know that we lose a minute of daylight every day until the clocks are set back in November? Fewer hours of daylight make it more difficult to see pedestrians, cyclists and children playing in the late afternoon. Also, later sunrises mean that drivers need to adjust to the brighter sun at different times of the morning. Always keep a pair of sunglasses in your car to shield your vision.

– Steer clear of wet leaves. Fall foliage is beautiful but once those leaves start falling and get wet from rain, they can become a serious driving hazard. Wet leaves are slippery and reduce traction.

– Don’t veer for deer. If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, remember don’t swerve. Be sure to brake firmly and hold onto the steering wheel with both hands. Come to a controlled stop and move the vehicle out of traffic to a safe location.

– Prepare an emergency kit for your car. Carrying an emergency kit in your car trunk or cargo area can be a real lifesaver. Be sure to include a flashlight, flares and a first-aid kit, jumper cables, extra washer fluid, nonperishable food, a jug of water, and a few basic tools such as wrenches, a ratchet/socket set, screwdrivers, and pliers.

– Watch for frost. Dipping nighttime temperatures bring frost to windshields and roads. Be sure to clear your windshield completely before driving. Also, decelerate or gently brake when approaching bridges and overpasses, as open surfaces are more prone to collect frost on the roadway surface. Stay alert for shaded areas that could create black ice during early morning and evening hours.

– Plan ahead for changing weather conditions. Have your car winterized before the winter storm season sets in. Keeping your car in good condition decreases your chance of being stranded in cold weather. Also, be sure to have a first-aid kit, thermal blanket, a working flashlight, a shovel and sand in your car.

– Watch for construction work zones. Construction work zones may still be active. Consult the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Mi Drive traffic Web site to plan your route. Please remember to slow down and pay attention in work zones. The life you save could be your own.

“While the weather may still be nice enough to lure pedestrians and bicyclists outdoors, motorists need to be extra careful to compensate for the abrupt change in the amount of daylight during the days following the time change,” said State Transportation Director Kirk T. Steudle. “We want everyone using the roads to be safe this fall.”