Driving Safely After Dark

Bad drivers are everywhere. Night driving is a time when drivers must stay focused as road dangers increase as alertness dwindles. In research findings from the National Safety Council, night driving has a fatality incidence rate three times that of daytime motoring. This higher number of fatalities occurs despite the fact that there are fewer drivers on the road after sunset. Driving safely after dark is an important skill.

One of the major issues contributing to night driving difficulty is vision. Nearly 90% of the information a driver needs to react safely comes in through his or her eyes. With less ambient light after sundown, depth perception, peripheral vision, and color recognition are all diminished. This set of conditions demands a higher and more sharpened focus from the eyes at a time when weariness is prevailing.

Night is also when we see an increase of booze-addled drivers and wandering wildlife; there seems to be an endless list of distractions. For the driver concerned with nighttime safety, there are steps and precautions can be taken improve driving in the dark.

Stay Safe After Sundown

  • Turn headlights on one hour before dusk and keep them on one hour after dawn to increase your vehicle's visibility.
  • Check headlights for proper alignment. Misaligned headlights can reduce road coverage and blind approaching traffic.
  • Perform regular maintenance inspections to assure all signal and brake lights are operating properly.
  • To eliminate glare, wipe the interior of the windshield.
  • While traveling through fog, use your low beams.
  • Don't drink and drive. While many people think this only applies to drinking to excess, just one drink may be all it takes to bring on drowsiness.
  • Be extra alert when driving at night on weekends. Drunk-driver-related auto deaths are at their highest on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • Slow down, reduce your speed and don't outdrive your headlights.
  • Maintain a greater following distance to the car ahead. Distances are more of a challenge to determine at night.
  • Switch to low beams when you're behind someone, so you don't blind them.
  • Keep your eyes focused on the right edge of the road to avoid glare from approaching vehicles.
  • Be alert to the signs of oncoming traffic. Watch for headlight flashes when approaching hills or hairpin curves.
  • Don't ignore eye fatigue. Make frequent stops and take brisk walks. If excessively tired, pull into a rest area and catch a nap.
  • Cigarette smoke interferes with vision. Try to curtail smoking urges.
  • Be aware that deer travel in herds. If you see one, reduce your speed. It’s a good bet that more deer are lurking just out of sight.
  • If your car should break down, pull off the road as far as possible. Turn on your emergency flashers and interior lights and don't wander from the car. Stay inside until assistance arrives.
  • Meet with your optometrist on schedule. Eye exams should be conducted once every three years for drivers under 40; every two years for drivers between 41 and 60; and annually for drivers older than 60.
  • Non-prescription glasses with anti-reflective lenses may be of assistance if you have perfect vision but have difficulty seeing at night.