Drivers Fact Sheets

Night Driving

Driving conditions are remarkably different in the night time, vision is reduced and it can be more difficult to see vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. In darkness it is harder to judge speed and distance and objects can be closer than they appear or travelling faster than first expected. Road casualty statistics show that 40% of collisions occur in the hours of darkness.

Why is night driving so dangerous? One obvious answer is darkness. Ninety percent of a driver’s reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision are compromised after sundown.

Older drivers have even greater difficulties seeing at night. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year old.

Another factor adding danger to night driving is fatigue. Drowsiness makes driving more difficult by dulling concentration and slowing reaction time.

Alcohol is a leading factor in fatal traffic crashes, playing a part in about half of all motor vehicle-related deaths. That makes weekend nights more dangerous. More fatal crashes take place on weekend nights than at any other time in the week.

Fortunately, you can take several effective measures to minimize these after-dark dangers by preparing your car and following special guidelines while you drive.

Observe night driving safety as soon as the sun goes down. Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive, because your eyes are constantly changing to adapt to the growing darkness.

Vision

One of the most important differences between day and night time driving conditions is the way in which we see our surroundings. We become completely dependent upon artificial sources of light to show us where we are.

We are also much more sensitive to bright lights and other distractions on the road ahead. For this reason, you should study road maps and other written directions carefully before starting out at night.

Also, watch carefully for highway signs, pedestrians, animals, slow-moving vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles that may be on the road ahead of you. All of them are more difficult to see at night.

If you have a passenger in the seat next to you, he or she can serve as a “second pair of eyes” for you. Have him/her keep a close watch for road signs and unexpected hazards on the road ahead.

Eye fatigue is a particularly difficult problem when driving at night. To relieve this problem or prevent it from happening, keep your eyes moving…from side to side, near to far ahead, and so forth.

Keep all windows and mirrors in your vehicle clean and free of defects. They should never be clouded by frost or steam, or marred by large scratches or cracks.

Glare

Glare can seriously lessen your ability to see clearly. Many times it can even cause temporary blindness. After dark the most common type of glare you will encounter is that of oncoming headlights, or the reflection of headlights in your rear view mirror from vehicles following you.

If you turn your eyes away from the glare it becomes less serious. For glare caused by headlights from behind you, use a “day-night” mirror or adjust your regular mirror to cut out as much of the bright light as possible. It may also help to reduce your speed until your eyes recover from the glare. Be careful not to reduce your speed drastically when you have vehicles following you.

Using Your Headlights

Vehicle lights are there for your safety and those around you – it is illegal to drive at night without fully functioning front and rear lights. You should also check that all lights on the car are in full working order and kept clean before you start a journey.

One of the most common and dangerous habits that drivers can get into at night is “overdriving” the headlights of their vehicle. You should never drive so fast that you are unable to stop within the distance that you can clearly see on the road ahead of you by the light of your vehicle’s head lamps. For most vehicles this distance is no more than 350 feet when the headlights are on high beam.

In bad weather or other driving conditions when your ability to see clearly is decreased, this distance can be much less. Remember, total stopping distance is the distance your vehicle will travel from the moment the hazard appears until your vehicle comes to a complete stop. Therefore, because you cannot see as far ahead at night, you need to slow down to give yourself more distance to stop your vehicle.

You should never have your vehicle’s headlights on high beam when you are within 1000 feet of an oncoming vehicle. You should also switch to low beam when you are following another vehicle at a distance of 200 feet or less.

If you do not dim your lights you could cause the other driver to have an accident. If the vehicle is coming towards you, your vehicle could be involved as well. Also, if you dim your lights the other driver is likely to do so as well. If this does not happen you should keep your lights on low beam anyway.

If you do not, you are risking more than possibly blinding the other driver. You are endangering yourself as well.

Keep your vehicle’s lighting equipment clean and in good working condition. It is particularly important to keep the lenses of your lights clean.

Speed

Because of decreased visibility, driving too fast is more dangerous after dark than during the day. You can only see as far ahead as your headlights carry. At high speeds this does not give you enough time or distance to stop when you see something dangerous on the road ahead. It is a good idea to allow more following distance while driving at night in case you or the vehicle ahead of you must make a sudden stop. Speed limits are there for good reason, be sure to obey them even if you are familiar with the road.

Tiredness

The danger of falling asleep at the wheel is a significant factor at night and accounts for 20% of serious accidents on motorways and monotonous roads in Great Britain.

Avoid driving at times when you would usually be asleep. You are far more likely

to fall asleep at the wheel when driving at night. Feeling tired when you are driving is an early warning sign that you will fall asleep at the wheel. If you choose to ignore the tell tale signs then the consequences can be serious. If you feel tired during the journey then you should find somewhere to stop as soon as possible.

If you have another driver then they may be able to take over the driving. If you are the only driver then the only proven way to reduce the risk of fatigue in the short term is to drink two strong coffee drinks and to have a short nap for 15 minutes. Ultimately, the only thing you can do to combat falling asleep behind the wheel, is to find somewhere safe to sleep and if you still feel tired then you should find somewhere safe to stop overnight.

Emergencies

Emergencies are always worse after dark than during daylight hours. There is less traffic and fewer chances for assistance. You have fewer choices of action and you are far more vulnerable to danger.

Here Are Some “Do’s” and “Don’ts” For Road Emergencies After Dark

  1. Pull your vehicle off the main highway as far as possible. If there is a hard shoulder, use it.
  2. Turn on emergency flashers if you have them. If not, leave your headlights on low beam and turn on your right turn signal.
  3. Put up the bonnet of the car unless it is raining or snowing.
  4. If you have a warning triangle place it at least 30 metres from the vehicle.
  5. If possible stay with the vehicle until help comes, especially if you are on an motorway.
  6. If you must leave your vehicle carry a flashlight or lantern.

To Sum Up We Recommend These Steps

  1. Prepare your car for night driving. Keep headlights, tail lights, indicators and windows (inside and out) clean.
  2. Have your headlights properly aligned. Mis-aimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
  3. Don’t drink and drive. Not only does alcohol severely impair your driving ability, it also acts as a depressant. Just one drink can induce fatigue.
  4. Avoid smoking when you drive. Smoke’s nicotine and carbon monoxide hamper night vision.
  5. If there is any doubt, turn your headlights on. Lights will not help you see better in early twilight, but they’ll make it easier for other drivers to see you. Being seen is as important as seeing.
  6. Reduce your speed and increase your following distances. It is more difficult to judge other vehicle’s speeds and distances at night.
  7. Don’t overdrive your headlights. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If you’re not, you are creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.
  8. When following another vehicle, keep your headlights on low beams so you don’t blind the driver ahead of you.
  9. If an oncoming vehicle doesn’t lower beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.
  10. Make frequent stops for light snacks and exercise. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get rest.
  11. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible. Warn approaching traffic at once by setting up reflecting warning triangles at least 30 metres from the vehicle. Turn on flashers and the inside courtesy light. Stay off the roadway and get passengers away from the area.

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