When it comes to staying safe on the road, you may think of these guidelines: limit distractions, follow the speed limit and watch for obstacles. We sometimes forget the role that time of day should play in our driving behaviors. With decreased visibility and potential drowsiness, driving at night poses unique challenges that may not be present during daytime hours.
Whether you are a commercial driver, drive for a ridesharing service or drive for yourself, know how to keep yourself and others safe while driving at night.
1. Reduce your speed.
Visibility is limited at night. Not only is it difficult to see ahead of you, but it’s also difficult to see objects approaching from either side of the road. It’s important to reduce your speed while driving at night to compensate for limited visibility. Speed should be decreased even more during poor weather to compensate for decreased stopping time.
2. Know what to do when approaching another vehicle at night.
- When approaching a vehicle from the front – Always dim your headlights when approaching an oncoming vehicle. Using your high beams can disorient other drivers and increase their risk of getting into an accident.
- When approaching a vehicle from behind – Increase your usual following distance by four to five seconds to give yourself ample response time. Always dim your headlights when following another vehicle.
3. Understand proper headlight safety.
Understanding headlight safety is key to preventing nighttime driving accidents. If your vehicle does not have automatic headlights, a good rule of thumb is to turn your lights on one hour before sunset until at least one hour after sunrise.
It is important to know what to do if an oncoming vehicle is not dimming their headlights. It’s best to follow the white line on the right side of the road with your eyes until the other vehicle has passed. This will limit disorientation by the other driver’s headlights and allow you to pass by safely.
4. Watch for pedestrians, bicycles, wildlife and other obstacles.
Be diligent in watching for obstacles and monitoring your peripheral vision at night. Other nighttime driving tips, such as reducing your speed and increasing following distance can help avoid accidents caused by obstacles.
5. Take steps to increase visibility
- Keep windows clean to reduce glare and distractions.
- Clean headlights often. Cloudy or yellowed headlights will produce a lower level of illumination, compromising how far ahead you can see at night.
- Adjust outside mirrors so your view is just outside the body of your vehicle.
- Keep interior vehicle lights low.
If you are having trouble with blurred vision while driving at night, you could have an astigmatism. Consult an eye doctor — you can get special glasses for driving at night to avoid blurred vision and glare from lights.
6. Know what to do if you have car trouble at night.
If you are experiencing car trouble at night, it’s important to know the steps to safety handle a roadside emergency.
- Pull off to the side of the road.
- Turn on your hazard lights and your interior light.
- If you have reflector triangles, set them up behind your vehicle.
You should also consider what items to keep in your car in case of an emergency.
7. Never drive impaired – that includes driving drowsy.
While it may seem obvious, you should never drive if you are impaired. Nighttime driving presents an increased risk of driving drowsy — when it’s dark outside, fatigue can come on suddenly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes involve drowsy drivers each year.
If you are experiencing fatigue, visit a rest stop or gas station to take a break, stretch your legs and have a snack. If you feel that you are unfit to drive for any reason (whether because of drowsiness, alcohol or another factor) do not get behind the wheel.
It’s also important to watch out for other impaired drivers on the road. If you see someone driving recklessly, get out of the way if it’s safe to do so.
Wherever your destination, keeping yourself and others safe on the road is more important than arriving on time. Driving with extra caution at night can help yourself and others arrive safely.
– National Safety Council
– National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)