Driving in the dark can be dangerous, especially during winter in the UK. As a nation, we are tired, and the days are shorter, the urgency to get home after a long day is intensified. Even those of us who usually avoid driving at night, can’t avoid the dark since it settles is as early as 4 pm.
Our visibility in the dark is limited to around 250 feet with car headlights, with high beams we are still limited to approximately 500 ft. The less we can see ahead, the less chance we have to react to bends, hazards and other road users. Add to that the fact our vision is compromised by the dark and the possibility of another car headlight obstructing your vision. It makes perfect sense that number car accidents and resulting fatalities rise steeply from October onwards. While some accidents are out of our control, there are many steps drivers can take to reduce the risk of an accident while driving at night.
Innocent Driver has put together a few tips for driving safely at night.
1. Do Not Drive Tired
It is always important to be alert on the roads and even more so in the dark. It might not be possible to avoid driving at night altogether, however, we should avoid driving at times when we would usually be asleep. If you feel tired at all, this is a warning sign, and you should pull over. If you are going to be driving for a significant amount of time, take a 15-minute break every two hours to re-group. Make sure you plan your route ahead and know where you can stop off as and when required. Car sharing on night drives is always a good idea. You can take turns to drive and have two pairs of eyes on the road.
2. Healthy Headlights
It’s illegal to drive at night without fully functioning headlights (front & rear) and with good reason. Driving without the appropriate lights puts you and others in danger. Make sure that your lights are fully functioning before each journey in the dark. It’s also vital that you make sure they are clean. It’s easy for headlights to become dirty and dull, limiting their effectiveness. Plastic headlights on older cars can become faded over time and may require a specialist cleaning solution. Finally, make sure that your lights are positioned correctly at all times. You can use the cars user manual or have them checked by a mechanic.
Always turn off the main beam on your lights as soon as you realise another vehicle is headed your way. Similarly, make sure you don’t stare into the glare of other headlights; it can temporarily blur your vision.
3. Regular Eye Testing
The vision issues experienced during night driving are even more dangerous if you have poor eyesight. Make sure that you get your eyes tested regularly and wear the correct contact lenses or glasses at all times. This will help you be as safe as possible. Even if you don’t need a prescription, keep in mind that driving from day to night can be tricky. This is because your eyes are continually adjusting to the changing light. Research shows that the time taken to recover from glare increases from 1 to 9 seconds between the ages of 15 – 65. Unfortunately, age does affect other aspects of our eyesight, like the ability to see colour, depth perception, and peripheral vision. In contrast, younger drivers can struggle to drive in the dark due to inexperience, in which case driving in the dark course could be helpful.
4. Improve Your Skills
As we just touched upon, younger drivers can struggle with night time driving due to inexperience. It is advisable to locate a course to attend and take on some additional reading on driving in the dark. Many driving instructors offer lessons in the night to aid skills and confidence. This advice does not apply to newly qualified drivers; further training can help drivers of all age and experience.
5. Keep Your Windows Clean
Again, a straightforward point about vision. All of your windows need to be clean and clear so as not to obstruct your view in already dangerous driving conditions.
A few other tips:
- Keep the lights inside your car dimmed.
- Be extra vigilant for bikes, pedestrians & animals.
- If you are involved in an accident, remember to switch on your hazard lights.
- In case of a nighttime break down make sure that you keep the following in your car: a torch, blankets, snacks, warm clothing, a portable phone charger, extra clothing.
Innocent Driver is an accident management company, while we want you to stay safe, in the event of an accident, we are here to help.