Driving in the dark makes some people uncomfortable, and for a good reason. Common. sense tells us it is more dangerous than driving during the day, mainly due to the fact darkness works to reduce our field of vision, including our peripheral vision. This affects both our depth perception and ability to distinguish different colours.
Add potential driver fatigue to this and it’s a recipe for disaster. Some deal with this risk by avoiding night driving altogether but this isn’t always possible. Along with driving more defensively, there are some simple ways to reduce the risks of night driving.
Clean your Windows
Dirty windscreen can be annoying but harmless during the day. However, the setting sun or oncoming headlights can become blinding when they hit the windscreen at just the right angle, so before setting off at night (or even during twilight) ensure your windows have been cleaned inside and out.
Using your Lights
Headlights are invaluable when driving in the dark, so it’s best to give them a check ahead of time. Have someone look while you turn your parkers on, then your low beams and finally your high beams, and test to make sure that your stoplights and brake lights are working too. While you’re here, give the indicators a flick to make sure they’re okay. Along with this, know when to use what headlight level. High beams should be used when travelling on unlit country roads unless travelling behind another car — just remember to drop to low beams when there’s oncoming traffic.
When driving at night, try not to look directly into oncoming headlights. Instead focus directly ahead or on the white line of the road until the car has passed so you won’t be temporarily blinded.
Pay special attention to the road ahead and keep distractions to a minimum when driving at night. Most accidents involving animals happen at dusk, night or in the early morning when visibility is reduced. You’re also more likely to encounter drivers under the influence, and consistently scanning ahead is the best way to reduce these risks. On top of this, while distractions can be dangerous at any time of day, they are even more so at night. Don’t touch the phone, and turn the radio down. If there is the ability to, reducing dash lighting can also help.
Something else that can help with all of this is reducing your speed, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area. This will allow more time to react should something happen — be sure to maintain a steady speed though, as erratic speed changes may confuse drivers behind you.
Driver fatigue and driving under the influence (whether it’s alcohol or drugs) are two common causes of accidents. If you’re feeling fatigued, consider stopping for the night or at the very least taking a 15-minute powernap. Alternatively, switch drivers if you’re not travelling alone.
Don’t put yourselves or others at risk by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you suspect someone else on the road is under the influence, keep your distance, use defensive driving techniques and alert authorities if safe to do so.