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Danger lurks in the night which is why every driver needs to be extra cautious to keep themselves and other road users safe. While lighting is a problem at night, many other factors also tend to affect the concentration of drivers at night making roads a lot more dangerous. In most countries around the world, only a quarter of cars are driven at night but the night time also accounts for 3 quarters of all the accidents. This happens because drivers are fatigued and, in a hurry while driving at night endangering the lives of all road users. Driving at night can however be safer and even more fun if you adhere to these 10 tips.
1. Avoid Distractions
Driving during the day exposes you to more roadside distractions both inside and outside your car because of lots of activity around you. Driving at night, however, has its own share of distractions ranging from your phone, eating your take away in the car to being tempted to take one look too long at events happening on the roadside. Taking your eyes off the road for a moment could however mean the difference between life and death for everyone on that road. To the surprise of many, distracted driving is the most common cause of road accidents in the United States and many developed countries as well.
It is important to maintain focus on the road and most importantly, at night. Remember to strap your baby properly on their car seat and ensure that cheeky passengers stay in the back. This will prevent the distraction of Having to look behind countlessly checking on the baby or your passenger for that matter. On top of that, always keep your hands on the wheel and try to maintain a clear mind as much as possible. This becomes important when it comes to evading a sudden upcoming collision. Believe it or not, your mind might drift off to a point where you forget you were on the road.
2. Choose the Right Glasses
For many drivers with visual impairment, it is a big challenge to drive at night. Some opt not to drive at night at all but this doesn`t mean you are a bad driver because you need glasses, you just need to choose the right ones. It is actually a legal requirement for visually impaired drivers to wear glasses or contacts while driving, but the challenge here is ensuring you have glasses that give you a clear sight of the 180 degrees of your forward view. Wrong glasses can become a death sentence for a nighttime driver more so if you have to adjust them every now and then to maintain a clear vision. This way, they become both a distraction and a blinding agent even worse than the glare from oncoming traffic.
Wear glasses that have anti-glare protection is the best thing to do when out driving at night. Never opt for tinted glasses when driving at night because while they reduce the glare, they also affect your cornea`s image perception due to the low light intensity leaving you partially blind. If you are not confident about your visual ability at night, it is safer to simply opt for another driver or get a cab.
3. Dim All Dashboard and Instrument Panel Lights
The Interior lights are important because you need to see your dash and map clearly but when it comes to driving at night, the darker your interior, the better your forward view. Driving at night with bright lights on your dashboard means you are dealing with a glare both inside and outside the car putting you in clear danger. This is the reason why all interior lighting is designed to direct light away from the driver`s seat and the less of it you have, the safer you are. Most modern smart instrument lights are properly focused keeping the rays away from the driver`s seat but most old and cheap maps and other interior accessory lighting simply scatter the light around.
For maximum safety when driving, you should dim or turn off any interior lights that you don’t need especially the map if you know your way around. It is also important to keep any objects that may reflect light into your eyes such as face mirrors and other shiny surfaces because they may be struck by light even from the outside and reflect it right into your eyes blinding you.
4. Keep Your Windshield, Windows and Mirrors Clean
Every inch of your windshield and windows matters a lot especially at night because of the glare from oncoming traffic and streetlamps. Dusty or misty windshields reduce the clarity of your forward view at night increasing your risk of going out of lane or misinterpreting your surroundings. During the day, natural light which is soft on your eyes makes many people assume the little dust or mist on the windows. However, at night, you need a very clear forward view and roadside view because even the most powerful headlights may not match natural light. This helps you maintain a clear view of your lane and perception of your roadside, especially wildlife which may come budging into traffic without warning. A clear windscreen means you get a better view for the few extra seconds you may need to make a safe move in case of an emergency. To maintain a clean and dry windshield means you have to keep a piece of dry cloth with you for wiping.
5. Get Extra Lighting But Keep Them in Check
Roads have blind spots that become more dangerous when driving at night. It is even more dangerous when you are offroading or driving in bad weather. While the package lights from the manufacturer may be enough for standard driving conditions, night driving is never standard which is why extra lighting will always come in handy. You can install rock lights, fog lights and powerful HID headlamps that imitate natural light to reduce scattered light and glare keeping both you and your fellow road users safe. A high beam allows you to see further and better but it is dangerous when there is a lot of oncoming traffic. While driving in areas without street lamps, you may use your high beam but many people tend to forget to dim them after exiting these areas. The extra lights you install should also be deployed only when it is necessary. Having full lights all around your car acts as a distraction to fellow road users.
While you may do right by your lights, fellow road users may not adhere to these standards which is why you have to look out for glare from oncoming traffic as well. The effect becomes worse when you are driving a small car against the oncoming traffic of large trucks which tend to have a very strong glare. When faced by oncoming traffic with blinding headlights, you need to look away from direct light and blink your high beams to signal the driver to dim their lights.
6. Ensure Your Headlamps Are Focused Correctly
This is a major problem even in new cars. If your headlights are pointing lower or wider than they should be, it means you are either seeing less of the road, hurting oncoming traffic drivers with your misaligned beams or a combination of both. Uneven horizontal adjustment puts other drivers in the direct focus of your glare impairing their judgment. This is why you need to ensure that both your low and high beams are focused at the right angle to concentrate on your forward view and also fixed at the correct height. Adjusting uneven headlights is a simple process you can complete in 30 minutes or less. You can also contact an expert to help you with it. Your buyer`s manual will help you check your adjusters and the measurements you need on a flat wall to make correct adjustments on your headlights. Most new GM models have easy access to your adjusters making it easy to adjust unaided. Older models may require a manual adjustment tool.
7. Keep A Safe Distance from the Front Car
Most drivers sharing the road with you at night are tired, stressed and in a hurry to get home which means their judgment may not be as sound as it would be during the day. Drivers are also more likely to apply emergency brakes at night because obstacles on the road and unpredicted threats increase in the dark. This means the closer you drive to someone, the more likely you are to bump into them or be forced to make dangerous swerves. Driving too close to someone also makes them nervous because they get this feeling that they are causing a snarl-up which may cause them to speed or make decisions quickly. This is why it is advisable to keep a safe distance to avoid distracting them.
Tailgating becomes even more dangerous at night because your headlights are glaring directly into the front driver`s mirrors affecting their ability to see their surroundings. Keeping a safe distance is also good for you because you have more room to make rapid maneuvers in case the driver applies emergency brakes or you notice potholes on the road.
8. Stay Alert
This is actually the most general advice you will give yourself when driving at night but things change drastically once you are behind the wheel. If you are fatigued after working or driving for long, you may be tempted to sleep once you are in the comfort of the driver`s seat and this sometimes creeps up on you without your knowledge. It is also very dangerous to get behind the wheel when drunk or on heavy medication because this impairs your judgment. The most general advice for this situation would be to pull over once you realize that you can’t stay alert while driving.
If pulling over is not an option, get a co-driver or company that keeps you awake as you drive. The other danger with night driving is unseen animals and other road obstacles. When driving at night, you are also very likely to run into wild animals and stray pets and it is very important that you keep your calm to be able to make safe maneuvers. It is also important to stay calm especially after emergency braking, this helps you stay fit for the rest of your journey.
9. Check Your Speed
Many people pulled over for speeding at night are rarely aware that their speed is over the limit. This is because most of them are in a hurry and they tend to simply focus on the road and the wheel without checking their speed. This is because most nighttime drivers are in a hurry to get somewhere and when this happens to be the case with many drivers on the road, the chances of causing accidents to increase tremendously. Your ability to safely avoid obstacles is hampered while you are running high speeds increasing chances of every encounter becoming fatal. This is why you need to keep a safe speed and avoid overtaking despite the temptation to speed. Changing lanes at night is also very dangerous as the judgment of your fellow drivers may not be the accurate either increasing the possibility of driving into each other.
10. Training and Eye Testing
Your driving school lessons are good but not necessarily all you need to drive at night. Most people driving on their own at night for the first time tend to be as shaky behind the wheel as any first-time driver. Whether you are driving on a busy road or a clear country road, you really need enough experience to drive confidently at night. This is why you are advised to train with an experienced driver on different road conditions. This helps you get the experience and confidence required to handle any threats that come up making you a safe driver at night. Experts recommend at least one year of driving experience before you can become a safe frequent nighttime driver.
Taking eye tests is also important if you want to be certain about your ability to drive at night. Most people assume that being able to see clearly while driving during the day means they can at night but things are very different when there is little light. Getting your eyes tested for both distance and reaction to bright flashing lights is the best way to be fully prepared for driving at night.
Road safety is a wide subject affected by many factors ranging from weather to the state of the road but the final determinant of safety is the driver. It is true to say that a driver may not be in charge of some of the factors that affect road safety, especially when driving at night. However, drivers can at least make themselves and their car safe for driving. Night driving safety depends on many small actions that make the difference between life and death every time you step out to drive. These are simple practices that every driver is able to adhere to which is why they are recommended for both experienced and new drivers.