It is no secret that driving at night is more difficult for several reasons, and with Daylight Savings Time ending the first weekend in Nov., we will all be behind the wheel in the dark more often. While there has been much advancement in the realm of headlights and glare technologies, good driving at night comes down to one thing: human behavior. No amount of hardware and technology can replace an attentive, well-prepared driver, and this article will give you five useful tips for driving at night.
According to Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, getting behind the wheel is the riskiest thing most people do every day. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 95 percent of crashes are caused by human error and these numbers are significantly higher after the sun has gone down. The facts are the facts: driving can be dangerous but you can avoid being a statistic if you follow the rules of the road and your vehicle is properly equipped.
Here are 5 Tips for Driving at Night:
1. Wear Your Glasses or Contacts
Although you should be wearing your corrective lenses at all times, driving at night requires your absolute best vision and reaction time. In order to receive a driver’s license you must pass a vision test, and if you fail this test you have a legal requirement to wear corrective lenses. There is also a “Daylight Driving Only” restriction for those with exceptionally poor eyesight.
In addition to adjusting to the glare of night traffic, your ability to react to pedestrians or wildlife is compromised if you do not wear your lenses. Do yourself and the other drivers on the road a favor.
2. Clean Your Windshield and Mirrors, Adjust if Necessary
Dirty windshields and mirrors reflect and diffuse light that can produce an eye-squinting yet completely avoidable distraction. You can find a proper cleaning spray or wipe at any auto store or even use the window or glass cleaner from your home. If you clean your windshield and mirrors at least once a week your vision will never be impaired.
The option of tilting your exterior mirrors depends on your height and the vehicle you drive. You should always test new angles to see if they reduce glare and remember to turn on the night or automatic dimming feature of your rear view mirror to darken the mirror at night. These are all simple steps to make toward a safer night on the road.
3. Aim Your Headlights
Although some of the newer luxury vehicles offer self-adjusting, adaptive headlight systems, not everyone can afford them. If you are one of the many with standard motionless headlights, it is imperative to make sure they are angled properly. If not for your own benefit, to make sure you are not blinding oncoming traffic.
You can find the instructions in your owner’s manual or have your mechanic perform this simple yet important task. Some drivers don’t even know their headlights are misaligned and have been driving with them since they have owned the vehicle. It is definitely worth checking and may provide you with a brand new nighttime driving experience.
4. Turn on the Fog Lights
The main purpose of fog lights is to light up the road during foggy conditions. Your headlights catch the water vapor of the fog and can make the view of the road in front of you quite difficult to manage. In effect, the lower fog lights illuminate the road instead of the fog.
But fog lights are not limited to the conditions they were built for; you can use fog lights every night for enhanced driving. Turning on these two additional lights is never a bad thing and will only improve your vision. When you think about it, how many times a year do you actually use your fog lights in fog? Get some use out of them.
5. Be Mindful of Other Drivers
Federal traffic studies have shown that there is a higher percentage of drunk drivers at night, as well as tired drivers, so keep your eye out for erratic behavior. If you find yourself heading toward someone with their high beams on, look down at the right edge of the road and use it as a steering guide. You should also be mindful of your own high beams with oncoming traffic to avoid causing them the same issue.
And if for any reason you have to pull off the road, pull off as far as you possibly can. Many drivers have been seriously injured or killed when changing a tire or dealing with engine trouble at night. For all of the reasons listed above, put as much distance as possible between you and the roadway if you ever have to pull over at night.
Photo copyright “Night Drive” by Christopher Cook.