Driving in the dark - how to stay safe
Many of us now face time on the road in the hours of darkness, whether in the morning or evening. With 40% of accidents occurring during the hours of darkness, it’s important to do everything you can to increase your safety when driving in the dark.
Road conditions differ when dark than during daylight hours for a few reasons. Visibility drastically changes, but there are also other factors such as falling asleep at the wheel that can be a cause of concern when driving in the dark. If you’re wondering how you can best stay safe when driving at night or through the long hours of darkness in winter, we’ve collected some of the most useful tips to help.
Keep your windows clean
Visibility is a huge factor in accidents that occur at night. Whether you are watching other vehicles on the road, cyclists or pedestrians, being able to see clearly is essential. While dust and grime buildup both inside and outside might not be very noticeable during daylight hours, it can cause glare from headlights, street lamps and even sunlight at certain angles. Be sure to keep your windows clean both inside and out to reduce glare that can inhibit your visibility.
Check your lights regularly
Maintaining the lights on your vehicle is key for ensuring you are visible to other drivers. Make a habit to regularly check your headlights as well as taillights and indicators. It’s not only important they are all working, but also that they’re working correctly. You want to ensure they are not too bright (when you’re not using your high beam) as this can also be a hazard for oncoming traffic. Not only is driving without properly operating lights a safety issue, is it illegal and you may be stopped by the police.
Ensure you’re seen on the kerbside
If you need to pull over for any reason in the dark, ensure you can be easily seen. Keep reflective triangles in your car as well as a hi-vis vest with reflective panels to ensure light is easily reflected. If you are waiting for roadside assistance, it is best to stay inside your car with your hazard lights on.
Avoid looking directly into the light
Looking directly into the lights of oncoming vehicles can temporarily blind you. Instead, cast your glaze slightly lower or to the right so you are focused on the white line. This will avoid causing overexposure to light that can reduce your ability to see in the dark once the vehicle has passed.
Do not get distracted by other vehicles
This should be a priority both in daylight and nighttime driving, however, it’s even more important when driving in the dark. Whether you are changing the dial on the stereo, adjusting the climate control settings or focused on something else within your vehicle, you should have your full attention set on the road. Driving at night is usually performed after a day at work and you are more prone to slower reaction times. Combined with lower visibility, not dedicating your full attention to the road ahead can be particularly risky.
Be extra aware of your surroundings
This is once again associated with reduced visibility under the cover of night. Even if the area is brightly lit with street lights, there is far less visibility than during daylight hours. This requires you to be more aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists and animals or additional hazards. Remember, in winter the darkness can set in as early as 3 pm which means children and elderly people may be out and about in greater numbers than during dark hours in the summertime. Cyclists may also not have the correct attire or lighting on their bike which can decrease how visible they are too.
Increase space and reduce speed
You should be following the three-second rule, which means there is a three-second gap between when the vehicle in front of you passes an object before you then pass it. At night, you should also ensure you are not too close by using your headlights. If you are unable to stop within the illuminated area, you are too close.
Practice driving in the dark
Hesitation can be a significant cause of road accidents. To become more confident with driving in the dark, you need to do it more often. Make time to practice driving in the dark, evening if it’s just close to home to ensure you are comfortable in low-light situations.
Driving in the dark can sometimes be daunting, especially for new drivers. By following the tips above and practising your night driving, you can increase your safety when driving in the dark.
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