In summertime the sun shines in the long daylight hours and the driving, like the living, is easy. Yet when winter comes and the days get shorter, driving in darkness can become a necessity, not just at night but in the early morning and late afternoon as well.
For those who have to commute or make longer trips in the dark, it pays to be aware of some straightforward safety tips.
Maintain lighting system
First of all, make sure your headlights, tail lights, brake, reversing and turning signal lights are all functioning well. Replace any blown bulbs or fuses. These lights are not only your means of seeing what is happening in the road ahead but also your way of letting other motorists know where you are and what you intend to do.
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You can also be picked up by traffic police for not having properly working lights, and that could mean an expensive penalty, which is easily avoided.
Reduce speed to match reduced vision
In the daytime you can see hundreds of yards ahead and behind, as well as having a clear view of what is happening in the highway lanes on either side of the one you are traveling in. At night, the range of your front vision is reduced to a few car lengths, or even less in rural areas without street lights.
The moving shapes beside you are just dark silhouettes and your rear vision is almost non-existent. This means that your brain does not have anywhere near the same amount of time to process information and react as it does in daylight. So knock at least 6 miles (10 kilometers) per hour off the speed at which you would travel during the day.
Increase braking distance
It’s also a good idea to increase the distance between your vehicle and the one immediately in front of you. If the car you are following brakes suddenly, it can be difficult to spot the difference between tail lights and brake lights until it is too late, so give yourself more time to react and slow down or stop.
Take a break
Driving after dark is far more tiring than daytime driving. Your pupils are dilated, your brain is working harder just to sort out what is happening in the alternating darkness and glare, and you are probably tired after a hard day at work or an early wake-up call. So take it easy and try hard to stay focused. If you are planning to travel a long distance, take frequent breaks.
Get your eyesight tested
Night vision declines with age. A person over forty is unlikely to have the same level of night vision as a twenty year old. Your optometrist will be able to check your night vision, and there are night vision glasses available to help with any problems you may have.
Exercise caution in unfamiliar territory
The hours of darkness are not a good time to explore a new neighborhood, especially if you are alone. Carjacking, theft from cars and assaults are all more likely to occur at night.
When driving in unfamiliar territory after dark, make sure all the car doors are locked and stay observant whenever your vehicle is stationary in traffic or at a stop light. If hailed by a pedestrian, exercise caution before opening a window.
Don’t drink and drive
Everyone likes to relax and wind down in the evening. For many people this means going out to have a drink with friends. Enjoy yourself, but if you plan to drive, limit your intake of alcoholic drinks for the sake of safety and preserving your driving license. If possible, appoint one of your group as designated driver: that is, the person who chooses to forgo a beer tonight so that he or she can drive you all home safely. Next time it will be someone else’s turn to stay sober and be a safe driver.
Driving in the dark is a fact of life. It is also a fact that many more accidents and fatalities occur per mile driven in darkness. By observing these straightforward tips for night driving you will increase your chances of getting to your destination safely.