30 Oct 6 Tips to Drive Safely at Night
The change in seasons calls for a change in driving habits. Longer nights mean that drivers should review the techniques needed to drive safely in low-light conditions.
With the change to the colder seasons, the amount of time drivers will likely spend traveling at night or in low-light conditions is increasing as days become shorter and the sun rises later and sets earlier. Drivers will have to change their habits to navigate the road safely as low-light conditions bring challenges that daytime driving doesn’t.
Low-Light Driving Tips
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has six tips to keep in mind while driving at night:
- Check for drowsiness: Being well rested and alert is the first step to becoming a safe driver, especially when driving in darkened conditions. If you feel drowsy or tired before getting behind the wheel, even taking a brief nap could make a difference in preventing a crash. If you find yourself beginning to doze off while driving, pull park and take a cat nap or have a snack.
- Inspect your vehicle: Low-light conditions already make visibility difficult, so ensuring that your windows, mirrors, lights, and reflectors are clear of dirt or any other obstructions and are working properly will improve driving safety.
- Slow down: Be mindful of the speed limit, but slowing down can help drivers react to unseen or obscured dangers on the road more easily.
- Use your high beams: High beams can greatly extend driver visibility at night. Always make sure that it is safe and legal to use high beams, and avoid them if there are vehicles within 500 feet, and if you’re following directly behind another vehicle.
- Avoid bright lights inside your car: Human eyes can take up to 20 to 30 minutes to adapt to darkened conditions, if exposed to intense light, according to Scientific American. Turning on in-cab lights or brightening instrument gauges can hamper your ability to see the road, as well as briefly impair your vision as your eyes adjust.
- Don’t look directly into lights: For the same reasons you should avoid using interior lights, you should also avoid looking at lights of oncoming vehicles or road illumination directly. Use lane markings or look toward the right lane as your point of reference and to avoid being blinded by these lights.
Sunrise and Sunset Challenges
The time change doesn’t just mean more night-time driving. Operators and commuters who normally drive during the day time may also find themselves spending more time driving at sunrise and sunset as the time shifts — particularly before daylight savings goes into effect. While the basics of driving during these times are similar to driving at night, the AAA Exchange offers drivers safety suggestions specific to these conditions:
- Wear polarized sunglasses: Polarized lenses have a coating that neutralizes glare from the sun and other light sources. Eyeglasses can also have a coating applied to help reduce glare. Always make sure your glasses and sunglasses are the correct prescription to allow you to properly see the road.
- Use your sun visor: As the sun rises or sets, it’s likely that you will be exposed to sun glare making it difficult to see. Pulling down and adjusting your sun visor can help eliminate sun-produced glare and improve visibility.
- Increase your distance between cars: Obscuring the sun and other glare sources can still hamper a driver’s ability to see. The AAA Exchange recommends increasing following distance between cars so drivers have a larger cushion to react in an emergency situation.
- Turn your headlights on: Although it may not be dark enough to need headlights to see the road, turning on your headlights can greatly benefit other drivers on the road to alert them you are traveling on the road or highway with them, especially if they are not taking similar precautions to improve their visibility.
As the days grow shorter also keep an eye out for pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers or runners. They will be less visible than they normally would be, and may not be wearing reflective clothing to alert you they are using the road. Drivers should also look out for deer and other wildlife that may be nocturnal. Crashes involving deer tend to spike around November, according to the AAA, so drivers should be vigilant, especially driving in wooded areas.
Preparing for the shorter days will make driving in these darkened conditions safer for yourself and those with whom you’re sharing the road.