The human body is conditioned to be most alert during the day. That is when our brains are coded to operate at a peak efficiency. It takes strong repeated habitual experiences, such as working nightshifts, to condition the brain to work efficiently outside of this.
We typically also drive home after a hard day’s work and may feel tired, so our alertness is reduced and our reaction times are increased. Because of this, driving at night comes with its own unique challenges compared to driving during day time. Everything can become a blur of moving and stationary lights which be kept track of.
By following these safety tips for driving at night, you will increase safety for yourself and others around you when behind the wheel after dark.
Keep your distance
Following a vehicle at a safe distance is even more important at night and at other times when visibility is reduced, such as in poor weather. You can only see what the street lights (if present), your headlights and the headlights of other vehicles allow you to see. Outside of this area is the night and as a driver you’re focused more on traffic signals and what other vehicles are doing.
By maintaining a safe 3-second gap at night, you allow yourself plenty of reaction time and space in case of a sudden quick stop by the vehicle ahead, or an unexpected road hazard caused by a pedestrian, an animal, an object on the road or any number of other unexpected things.
Keeping your distance also allows the driver in front of you to know exactly where you are and what you’re doing, allowing them to make safe decisions.
Don’t stare into oncoming lights
Your eyes are more sensitive at night due to the low levels of light. Putting bright lights such as the headlights of an oncoming car directly in your line of sight can temporarily blind your vision as your eyes can be slow to adjust. Losing your vision while operating a motor vehicle is very dangerous.
Ensure your windshield and windows are clean
A dirty windshield can become a major problem during night driving due to the multiple light beams coming from oncoming traffic and surrounding streetlights. Outside lights can cause glare and temporary blockage of your view when interacting with the dirt and dust on the inside and outside of your glass.
Ensure your vehicle’s lights work
Your headlights work to help you see where you’re going at night and to alert other drivers to your presence. They essential to night driving and must be kept clean and clear to work properly. You can check your headlights regularly by ensuring they all show as reflections in a shiny vehicle in front of you when stationary at a red light. If you spot any which have failed, have it replaced as soon as possible as it is unsafe and illegal to have any non-working headlights.
Your tail lights must also be in good working order, including your brake lights. Drivers in vehicles following behind you rely on your tail lights to know when you are present in front of them and also reducing your speed.
Look out with extra care
The night time environment means that often you cannot see everything around you, so there is a greater chance of not seeing road hazards such as a stopped car, a pedestrian in the middle of the road or even a street pole.
Take extra care in looking where you are going, especially when reversing, as it may be difficult to see what is in your path. This will help lower your risk of colliding with an object.
Driving at night often includes listening to the radio or music, talking with passengers and having phone calls. It is also the time when you will be less alert and require more reaction time to a road hazard. Because of these reasons it is best to keep distractions to a minimum.
If you have passengers on board, don’t feel the need to concentrate completely on what they are saying as they will understand you’re concentrating on driving, especially at night when more concentration may be required.
Don’t drink and drive
Data indicates that alcohol-related road accidents with fatal injuries are four times more likely at night than during the day. Avoid putting yourself and others at risk by drinking and then getting behind the wheel.
Also be on the lookout for indications of a driver under the influence who may be swerving, driving erratically or display strange road manners, especially at night.
Be seen when outside your vehicle at night
If you have to pull over in traffic, ensure you increase your chances of being seen by other drivers by using your turn signals, hazard lights, headlights / tail lights and even your internal cabin lights. Always stay inside your car when waiting for help as this is the safest place to wait.