There are plenty of reasons that driving at night is considered more dangerous than daytime driving. With lower visibility, night-time drivers have less time and room to react to changes in road conditions or sudden obstacles. Studies show that fatal accidents are three times as likely to happen at night than during the day.
If you are a new driver, you might have reservations about driving in the dark. With reduced visibility and an increased chance of being tired or having eye fatigue, you are wise to think about the risks. Be sure to plan ahead, slow down, take breaks and avoid distractions as much as you are able.
So, how do you stay safe if you have no choice but to drive in the dark? Use these safety tips when you are driving at night:
If you know you have a night-time drive ahead of you, try to plan ahead as much as you can. Avoid drinking alcohol and try to limit distractions as much as you are able. If you know you will be driving several people, for example, turn off your radio and keep your phone out of sight. Both alcohol and distractions are common causes of accidents at night.
Check Your Lights
Before you head out, be sure to check your vehicle’s lighting system. First, make sure your headlights are working properly and without obstruction. At night, your headlights can be your only way to see on a dark road.
If you have a headlight out or dimmed or dirty, you will struggle to see properly. Don’t forget to check your taillights as well, as they are important indicators for the drivers behind you.
Watch for Pedestrians
Not all roads or intersections are properly lit. A dark patch of the road can leave pedestrians more vulnerable to drivers. Part of your responsibility behind the wheel is to watch carefully for pedestrians, especially in the dark.
People jogging or walking may be wearing dark clothing with little reflection. They may step out, unexpectedly, either at a crossing or in the middle of a stretch of road. To drive safely at night, always be on the lookout for those on foot.
Keep Your Windows Clear
It may sound obvious that you need a clear windshield to drive safely at night, but you might not think to look closely at your windows before you drive. Look for dirt and debris on your windshield, your rear window and even your side windows before you set out at night.
Your side windows can be easily overlooked, even though they are critical for safe shoulder checks. In winter, make sure all your windows are completely clear of snow and ice before you drive.
At night, when visibility is reduced and you are more likely to be tired, it is important to slow your speed. Allow for extra time to get to your destination, so you don’t feel the need to rush. Reducing your speed will allow you to increase the distance between you and the car in front of you, giving you more time to react than you might otherwise need during the day.
Watch Out for Fatigue
When daylight fades, our bodies naturally prepare for sleep. If you are tired, hungry or have had a long day, fatigue may creep up on you. Drowsy driving can be caused by a wide range of causes, including medication, shift work or even eye fatigue from driving at night without prescription glasses.
If you know you are likely to be tired while driving, be sure to plan for breaks. Avoid driving more than eight hours a day. Finally, try to split the workload with someone else.
Be Ready for Roadside
Nobody expects to have an emergency at the side of the road. But at night, it’s even more important to be prepared for an unexpected stop. If you are driving at night in the winter, be sure your phone is charged. Also, you should have plenty of blankets, food, flashlights and water on hand.
No matter the time of year, it’s important to be seen on the side of the road, should you need to pull over. Store reflective triangles in your car, turn on your hazard lights and wait for help inside your vehicle.
When driving at night, your lighting matters. If your dashboard lights don’t go automatically dim, turn them down manually to avoid your eyes having to readjust between light and dark constantly.
Similarly, avoid looking into the lights of oncoming traffic, which will impair your vision temporarily. Taking these small steps will help to prevent excessive eye fatigue, a common complaint of night-time drivers.