Tips for safe travels in fall
In fall, drivers must often contend with slick roads and limited visibility. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST
We are well into the fall season. Driving behaviour changes due to the earlier darkness in the afternoon. There are weather changes that affect the road surface and limit visibility, which challenge every driver.
Many drivers are well aware of the difficulty in judging the distance of approaching vehicles at night. When drivers see vehicles of all types approaching, they believe these oncoming vehicles are closer than they appear. The brighter light from the high beam setting creates this illusion of approaching closeness. This situation is one of the only advantages of night driving on two-lane rural roads. It discourages passing, given the not so obvious positioning of the opposing vehicles.
Drivers should not look directly at oncoming traffic at night. It is best to look at the side road markings to get one’s bearings when being partially blinded by oncoming traffic. Many experienced drivers look to travel behind large trucks and semi-trailers on the highway at night. This allows for a lead driver, usually a professional, to provide the guidance for those drivers who do not feel entirely confident when travelling in the dark.
Many drivers like to drive at night. My father would set out on cross-country trips at night. He wanted to be on the road mid-week, with relatively light traffic and a bunch of professionals to accompany him in some sort of unofficial comfortable convoy.
Driving in the inner city is a whole different experience. Well-lit streets give any driver an advantage in identifying hazards of all kinds. Lack of visibility makes it dificult to identify driving problems. Pedestrians dressed in black at night are foolishly fashion conscious and putting themselves at risk in poorly-lit areas. Every pedestrian crosswalk should be lit up like Las Vegas.
Sadly, our municipalities are negligent in providing well-lit crosswalks at every juncture. What is so difficult about that? Every intersection should be lit up.
Mid-block crosswalks are lethal. They surprise drivers. It is counterintuitive to have such crosswalks. Regardless of the best intentions of our city representatives, pedestrians are ill-served by road crossings that are not well identified.
Drivers should never pass another motor vehicle stopped at a crosswalk of any kind. This practice ignores the possibility of a pedestrian, hidden by a stopped vehicle at the crosswalk, stepping in front of a passing vehicle.
Temperatures drop at night. The road surface can be slick with dew and frost during the late hours of the day and more likely the early-morning hours of the next day. Stopping distance increases dramatically in these conditions. Drivers should be careful to choose a driving lane that affords them an out. Steering to avoid a crash is preferable to braking. A quick stop often results in the most common rear-end crash. Rain soaked roads can increase the stopping distance by at least three times. Frost and black ice may increase it by as much as ten times.
Human behaviour behind the wheel is often difficult to explain. Why do drivers increase speed in the rain? It is a fact. Why do pedestrians run in the rain? It is a fact. This is bad combination. Quick unpredictable actions have the potential for individual disaster.
Quick actions are the most dangerous, particularly at night. Lane changes should be done in a concerted manner. Pedestrians should walk not run. Cyclists should be riding in such a manner as to give pedestrians and drivers ample time and space to react to their change of direction. A cyclist’s hand signal, a pedestrian’s raised arm and the well-timed turn signal of a driver, are much appreciated at this time of year.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.