Driving at Night

Driving at night presents us with quite different challenges than those faced during the day; we lose the advantage of colour, contrast, peripheral vision and depth perception, making journeys far more dangerous. Not only is it harder for us to spot hazards, it is also harder for others to spot you. Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day, yet many of us are unaware of the techniques that may be used to deal with these conditions effectively.

  • Make sure that all your exterior vehicle lights work properly before setting off on any journey.
  • Keep your headlights and windows clean; dirty headlights can reduce efficiency by as much as 90%, whilst dirty windows can increase glare, making it more difficult to see.
  • Turn your lights on 1 hour before sunset and keep them on at least 1 hour after sunrise. This will make it easier for other drivers to see you in the twilight and dawn light.
  • Keep your eyes open for pedestrians, cyclists and motorbike riders, particularly those who are not wearing bright clothing or do not have lights. You should take extra care when driving past cinemas, theatres, pubs and clubs - especially at closing time.
  • Make sure that you drive at a speed that enables you to stop within the distance you can see. Driving fast at night is more dangerous than during the day because of decreased visibility; always ensure that you have enough time to stop when you see something dangerous on the road ahead.
  • When driving, keep looking for flashes or beams of light at curves, hilltops and junctions that may indicate the headlights of another vehicle coming towards you.
  • Always use your dipped beam when driving in urban areas. You can use your full beam on other roads, but you must remember to dip them when there is someone in front of you or coming towards you.
  • Avoid flashing your full beams at a driver who is coming towards you with their full beams on; this will only increase the risk that the two of you will not be able to see.
  • If you are dazzled by the lights of an oncoming driver, slow down and glance down to the left hand side of the road to the kerb or the line marking the outside edge of the traffic lane. If you are dazzled by the lights of a car driving behind you, adjust your rear view mirror to cut out as much of the light as possible.
  • Increase the distance that you would normally keep between your car and the car in front; allowing a 4-5 second gap will give you more chance to spot potential problems and more time to respond.
  • Night driving can be very tiring, so make sure that you take plenty of breaks to allow your eyes time to recover. Take a short nap or a brisk walk, or have some caffeine to help you stay alert.