Driving can be tricky at the best of times, but remove the main light source of our planet and suddenly it’s an entirely new ball game. Once the sun goes down and the stars come out, driving can feel like it becomes that little bit more dangerous – and that’s because it does. In this blog we’ll take you through some of the biggest reasons to keep your wits about you and how to drive safer when it comes to driving once the sun’s gone down.
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What are the risks of night driving?
There are many reasons that driving at night poses more risks than in the middle of the day, and here is a small selection of some of the bigger threats to safe driving after sunset.
Let’s get the biggest one out of the way first – less light means you don’t see as much. Yes, your headlights do a job of helping you to see more, but they only light up what’s directly in front of you. Anything happening in your peripheral vision will not have the benefit of being lit up, meaning there could be any number of things you’re missing. It’s also worth noting that as we age, our eyes also lose some of their abilities to see in low light, and a 50-year-old could require up to twice as much light as a 30-year-old set of eyes.
‘TIREDNESS CAN KILL. TAKE A BREAK’. It’s a sign any driver who’s been on the motorway will have seen at some point, and it’s there for a reason. A study by Brake, the road safety charity, found that one in six accidents on the road are caused by fatigue by at least one party involved. Fatigue can be caused by a number of reasons, including the time of day – and chances are if you’re driving at night, fatigue could be a real issue for you.
You might think that this is a bit of an odd issue, and one that should be easy to fix, but you’d be surprised. We’ve all seen people driving along on an icy morning with only a terrifyingly small letterbox of vision in front of the driver’s eyes. This issue becomes much worse in the winter as the roads are covered in more dirt and grime thanks to the regular salting and gritting in order to keep them clear, and the weather tends to be worse, too. Not having a stock of screenwash means if you run out you’re going to struggle to clear your windscreen until you’re next able to go to the nearest automotive supply shop. At night, any dirt on the windscreen will show up much more prevalently, diminishing your already reduced vision even further.
No-one likes rush hour, which usually means people driving during these times (6am-9am and 4pm-7pm) aren’t in the best of moods. Add in the fact that you’re running late to get to work, or simply just want to get home as quickly as possible and there can be some questionable decision making taking place. These decisions can become incredibly dangerous during the winter months when rush hour takes place under moonlight.
It’s a general rule that you should always assume everyone else on the road is an idiot, but when it comes to driving at night, you should also prepare yourself for other drivers to not be at their most sober either. Drunk driving, while a crime, sadly does happen, and you’re far more likely to encounter a drunk driver in the middle of the night than at 2pm on a Thursday.
Top tips for night driving
Making sure you’re well aware of your surroundings is one of the best ways to ensure you’re a safer driver, and that’s true for any time of day, rather than just at night. Following defensive driving techniques could save not only your own life, but the lives of those around you.
Not only is defensive driving a strong combatant to the dangers of night driving, so is keeping your right foot in check whilst behind the wheel. The temptation when things get darker, strangely, is to speed up, but that only makes the risks greater. Ease off when the lights come on and you’ll be ensuring you’re that little bit safer on the road.
It has been suggested that for every two hours you spend on the road, you should take a 15 minute break. You could, of course, drink a caffeinated drink (such as coffee) during this break to reduce fatigue, but this is only a short-term fix and shouldn’t be seen as a long-term solution.
Dim interior lighting
Having bright lights within your cabin can be a huge distraction while driving at night, and not just for you. Other drivers could be put off by the sudden beam of light coming from the car in the other direction or that they’re overtaking on the motorway. Most modern cars will dim their dashboard when you turn the headlights on, but if yours doesn’t, check if there’s a way to reduce the brightness. Equally, if you’re using a sat-nav or your phone as a map, then set this to night mode, with darker displays and try to avoid using the interior light if possible.
Ensure you have a Clear View
Clearing your windscreen should be second nature to safe drivers, but make sure you don’t have anything lying on your dashboard that could distract from the road ahead. Debris on your dashboard is more likely to reflect off the window when driving at night, so you’ll need to make sure this does not impair your view of the road. Like before, try to make sure any mobile devices being used for navigation purposes are not positioned in a way that could restrict your view.
Ensure Headlights are Correctly Positioned
Everyone knows that there are, usually, three levels of brightness you can set your headlights to – side lights, low beam and full beam. Proper use of full beam at night is a must to ensure you are getting as much of a view of the road as possible, however, make sure you never use full beam when there is oncoming traffic as this could dazzle them, potentially making the situation much more dangerous.
What some people may not be aware of, though, is that you can actually position your headlights. If you can only see approximately 20-30 feet in front of you, then they’re too low, whereas if you find that you’re just lighting up the night sky, then they’re far too high. There’s often a little dial near to where your headlight switch is which can alter the height of your lights.
Be wary of wildlife
When the sun goes down, many nocturnal animals, such as badgers, are out and about so are therefore more likely to appear in your headlight beams as you round a corner of a country road. With the diminished light a protective haven for the animals, it also means you’re much less likely to see them before you hit them.
Eyes on the road
This should be a given whether you’re driving at 11pm or 11am, but try not to get distracted when behind the wheel. Keep your eyes fixed on the road as you’re much less likely to notice anomalies in the dark as you are in the light.
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