I love driving in the fall. Oh, those autumn colors! I find it hard not to be distracted by the beauty surrounding me.

I am fully aware of the possible dangers of concentration lapses while gazing in wonder at one of nature’s true splendor, but the colorful brilliance is not the only potential driving hazard.

There are ample additional distractions built into our modern vehicles. While my car is a couple of years old, I am still pretty peeved about many of the so-called technical improvements automakers have foisted upon me.

My car comes equipped with a standard computerized “communication center.”

Really? What was wrong with my plain old radio and CD player set into the console?

Now, instead of hitting one button on the dashboard, if I want to listen to the radio, I must select the home screen and scroll through three more screens of options before coming to the AM/FM selection. Then, if I decide to listen to an audio book or my favorite Broadway musical CD, I must go to the home screen and scroll through two screens to the option I want.

In my communication center, there is a “handsfree” option to link with my phone meant to reduce distraction because I am so important I must be able to be reached every second of every day.

I have three buttons on the steering wheel designed to make answering the phone, disconnecting a call and God only knows what else it does, less distracting.

But I must look at the symbols and decipher my options, which requires more “eye-time” off the road than simply hitting the speaker option on my phone.

I have eight, count them eight, options for directing heat or air conditioning delivery, and that is not including the temperature dial.

Talk about distractions!

I now find out there is an additional fall driving hazard. I was watching the Weather Channel a couple of mornings ago to see if it was time to bring out my winter coat when I saw an interesting report about driving during Mother Nature’s combining of falling leaves with falling temperatures. It appears my beautiful leaf-color-viewing and my automotive technical gadgetry are not the only driving hazards in autumn.

When fallen leaves accumulate on the roadway and become wet from rain or even fog, they can get extremely slippery, making the driving conditions like driving on ice.

Whoa, did you know that? And besides reducing the car's traction, causing skidding and the possibility of losing control, leaves often cover the painted road markings and make it difficult to see potholes and bumps.

If you add to these hazards the fact that, in our neck of the woods, road conditions can change from ideal to miserable in a matter of minutes, what you have is a potentially dangerous situation.

So if you join me in the annual pleasure of an autumn drive, please be conscious of the added possible perils if weather conditions turn nasty.

Having said all of this, I am not deterred from my leaf gazing. Oh, those gorgeous colors!

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Wendy J. Levenfeld is a published novelist, playwright and columnist from Chesterton. Send comments to wendylevenfeld@gmail.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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