It’s officially spring. But, that doesn’t mean poor driving conditions are behind us. As we all know, winter forgot to check the calendar this year.
Cold nights and warmer days — combined with daylight saving time — create a unique set of problems for drivers. The most common problem for a few weeks this time of year is black ice — that nasty little layer of frozen moisture awaiting us at the most inopportune moment. Although the sun is starting to gain strength, the nights can still be cold — especially clear nights.
As the ground cools overnight, a layer of moisture develops atop everything and if the temperature drops below freezing, turns to ice. This slim coat, if on the road, can be a major problem for early morning travellers.
To make matters worse it remains there until it melts — either from ambient temperature or the sun’s rays. You can quite possibly be driving down a dry clear road on a sunny morning only to be met with a nasty surprise in the middle of a corner — shaded by trees of other objects. Daylight saving time means more of us are driving during this important transition period between dark and light.
That same moisture that causes this problem, also frequently results in a layer of ground fog as the sun warms the land in the mornings.
These intermittent fog banks are another of those unpleasant little surprises that may await early morning drivers. Keep your headlights on at all times in these conditions, don’t just rely on your daytime running lights.
These moisture-laden areas can also wreak havoc with your vehicle’s ventilation system as this cold air comes in contact with your warm windshield. Many a motorist has become briefly blinded as the windows suddenly fog over in these conditions. The moisture is on the outside so be prepared to hit the wipers quickly — and this of course will be more effective if your windshield is clean. Keep your washer fluid topped up — with proper fluid, not just water, which will freeze and compound the situation.
This is also pothole season. Obviously, you should try to avoid striking a pothole — you could damage or destroy not only tires, but also wheels and suspensions. But sudden manoeuvres to avoid a pothole can be dangerous if the move is too severe.
Another problem at this time of year, particularly in rural areas, is animals. With temperatures on the rise, they tend to be more mobile. Their search for food causes them to stray unto the road, as their primary source of nutrition — vegetation — has not yet appeared. Wildlife biologists say the problem is particularly acute at dawn and dusk.
Animals aren’t the only ones who get mobile at this time of year. Farmers come to life as well. Be alert for the slow, heavy equipment they transport, especially in the early morning and evening when it is in use and visibility is reduced.
Spring is a wonderful time of year — and we all rejoice in its arrival. But temper that joy when behind the wheel.