Even for an experienced driver, driving at night can be a challenge. Once the sun sets, the cover of darkness can alter the appearance of the road and your surroundings. A road that you have driven on many times during daylight hours can look completely different in the dark.
Visibility, depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision are all compromised in low-light situations. Pedestrians, bikers, shadows and wild animals can further complicate conditions. Follow these night driving tips to stay safe when the sun goes down.
Staying safe on the road after dark
To ensure that you can see and others can see you, turn on your headlights before sunset and keep them on for an hour or so after sunrise.
Keep lights in working order
Periodically check your lights. When you pull into your garage, you can see the headlights and front turn signals reflected on the wall in front of you and taillights, brake lights and rear turn signals reflected on the door behind you.
Maintain a clear view
Keep your windshield and windows clean, inside and out. Dust and dirt can cause issues with glare.
Dim the dash
Adjust the brightness of the dashboard and instrument panel to avoid reflections.
If an oncoming car fails to turn off its high beam lights, turn your gaze to the side of the road to avoid being temporarily blinded.
Driving at any time of the day requires a tremendous amount of attention. Staying sharp and focused is an absolute must when driving at night. Eliminate all distractions.
Lay off the gas
Compensate for decreased visibility and reaction time by slowing down.
Clean your headlights
Headlight covers that are dirty or cloudy can comprise visibility.
Be aware of animals
Keep a sharp eye out for animals crossing the road. You might see light reflecting in its eyes long before you can see its body. Be especially wary when driving in rural areas.
The eyes have it
Constantly scan the road and surrounding area for hazards. Resist the temptation to only look at the center line; it can reduce your focus and awareness.
Use high beams wisely
Use your high beam lights on dark roadways with little traffic. Be sure to switch to your low beams when a car approaches to avoid blinding the driver.
If you wear glasses, have an anti-reflective coating put on the lenses to help cut down on the glare created by oncoming lights.
Give extra space
Put some extra distance between you and the car ahead of you. If that driver needs to react to a deer or other hazard, you’ll minimize the chances of being involved in a rear-end crash.
Avoid drowsy driving
While drowsy driving can happen at any time of the day, it is most prevalent between midnight and 6 a.m. When you drive while sleepy, your attention to the road is reduced and your reaction time is slowed, which can have disastrous results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drowsy driving caused 846 deaths in 2014.1 Follow these tips to avoid falling asleep while behind the wheel.
- Get a good night’s sleep before a long drive.
- Divide up a long trip with frequent breaks.
- If you feel yourself nodding off, pull into a rest area or other well-lit area for a nap.
- Drink some coffee or soda for a jolt of caffeine. Be aware this is a short-term fix; the effects of the caffeine will wear off.
- Share driving duties with a friend on long trips.
- Avoid traveling late at night. NHTSA reports that 48% of drowsy drivers nod off between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.1
- Before driving, don’t take prescription or over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness.
Additional Sources: 1Drowsy Driving Facts – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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