People aren’t great at seeing in the dark - and that’s a fact. We find ourselves continuously driving at night, which in itself can be a dangerous activity. Sure, there are fewer cars on the road during the night, yet the chances of traffic accidents are high. Here are our top 6 tips to stay safe while driving at night.
1. Inspect and test your headlights
The biggest difference between driving during the day and the night is the difference in light during these two times. Driving in the day provides a clearer vision because well, sunlight illuminates all the objects in a driver’s path. In the night? Not so much.
Your car’s headlights may be the biggest tool in providing a safe passage while driving at night. Try driving in the night with your headlights switched off, you simply can’t. Make sure to set some time aside before heading out to your late-night journey to check that your headlights are in optimal working condition. For new cars, adjust the headlights so they provide enough light on the road.
For older cars, it’s especially important that they haven’t dimmed with time, and that there’s no dirt build-up that can lessen the light coming from them.
2. Keep tiredness in check
Research says that the average human body needs at least 7 hours of sleep each night for the brain to work at an optimal level. Lack of sleep leads to cognitive impairment, which leads to slower reaction time, increased fatigue, and lesser focus on the road.
According to Brake, 10-20% of all crashes are estimated to be caused by fatigued driving. If that’s not frightening enough, 1 in 8 drivers admits to falling asleep behind the wheel. It’s evident that drivers are continuously driving while tired, and this is a great deterrent to road safety.
So, how do you stay safe on the road? First off, get enough sleep before you start driving. If you feel that your tiredness is affecting your vision, reaction time, and causing you to zone out of your surroundings, stop driving immediately. For those of us who drive as a part of our jobs, it is important to schedule shifts that account for adequate rest time in between.
Some prescription medicines also cause increased fatigue and drowsiness, so keep those in check while driving late at night, especially long distances.
3. Use navigation systems
What’s more dangerous than driving at night? Driving at night without any idea where you’re going!
While navigating during daylight is relatively easier because of the road signs that direct you to the location you’re going to, these signs are improperly illuminated at night. The chances of taking a sharp turn and quickly switching lanes increase in the night, which leads to nighttime road accidents. One way you can avoid this is by using navigation systems, most commonly built into a dashcam installed in your car.
The voice-enabled directions through navigation systems provide motorists with the correct lanes, routes, and turns to take while driving. This keeps your eyes on the road, and lessens the risk of road accidents, especially at night.
4. Avoid substance usage
Driving under substance influences like alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs greatly affects the reaction time, causes greater fatigue, and impair vision in motorists.
According to the Department of Transport, in 2018, 240 motorists were killed in road accidents while driving under alcohol influence. Drivers under cannabis influence are also 1.65 times more likely to cause fatal car accidents, which is astonishing considering most marijuana users believe that cannabis does not affect their ability to drive.
With these stats in mind, it is also evident that such risks are higher at night, as recreational drugs are most often taken in the evening time.
The best way to protect yourself while driving at night is to avoid driving if you’ve taken any mind-altering substances. If you find yourself under the influence, it’s best to take a cab back to your home. Substance driving not only endangers you, but also other drivers on the road.
5. Adjust interior lighting
Ever look at a bright light, and when you look away its harder for your eyes to adjust to your surroundsings? Well, the same phenomeon is in effect while you’re driving.
Your car’s dashboard lights are brighter than the road, and looking at them continously affects your road vision because of the light differences. For this reason, it is best to dim your dashboard lights so that it takes less time for your eyes to adjust to the light on the road.
The same stands true for interior lights. When the lights are on, everything not illuminiated by the light appears dimmer, which is risky when you’re relying on the visibility of the objects around your vehicle to drive safely.
The same applies to your smartphone’s screen brightness. While you shouldn’t be using your phone to begin with, in the times you do its important to lower your screen brightness so that it doesn’t take the focus away from the road.
6. Slow down
We get it, long commute hours can be exhausting especially after ending an 8 hour long shift. While it may seem like a good idea to drive at a faster speed to reach home quickly, no amount of time saving is worth your life.
According to the NHSTA, 37% of individuals killed in car crashes could be linked to speeding. The information isn’t surprising. Speeding greatly decreases reaction time for motorists: its harder to register, and react to, incoming objects on the road if you’re driving at 70 mph as compared to 30 mph.
At night, it is even more important to take control of your vehicle speed and drive safely so you and other motorists are not at risk of over speeding accidents.
The bottom line
Driving at night is risky because it’s harder to see objects on the road in the dark. Check your headlights so they provide optimal light, don’t drive if you’re fatigued or under substance influence, keep the interior lights low, use navigation systems to stay focused on the road, and slow down to make your nighttime driving safer.