Daylight Saving Time ends a week from Sunday morning and that means you’ll be driving in the dark more than you have in over six months.
Consider this: according to new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data more than 50 percent of all fatal car accidents occur at night. NHTSA has previously reported that fatalities on the road occur at a rate three times greater at night than during the day.
That is an ominous statistic to say the least. However, there is really no reason that night driving has to be unsafe. Here are some helpful tips to keep your visibility high and make the trip to your destination a safe one.
Nighttime Driving Safety Tips
1. Check your headlights.
Obviously, there’s less light available for you at night, so one critically important step you’ll want to take is checking your headlights.
Make sure both of them work. If not, replace both of them to avoid having one light stronger or weaker than the other. Check their housings and lenses too. Make sure they’re clean, clear, and aimed correctly.
If your headlights look severely cloudy or foggy most auto part stores sell buffering kits that can help. Walmart auto centers provide this service relatively cheap. To get your headlights aimed perfectly, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual. This could take some trial and error. Usually, it is not a difficult thing to do.
2. Headlights, high beams and avoiding headlight glare.
It is a good idea to turn your headlights on one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn to increase your vehicle’s visibility.
Always avoid staring at oncoming lights because they can seriously disrupt your concentration at night. Do your best to not gaze into other lights on the road, especially oncoming high beams.
If you are using high beams, make sure you dim them when coming traffic approaches. Use your low beams if you're driving behind someone. State laws govern the use of high beams. Laws vary but in many states you must turn your high beams off within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle or when you are 200- to 300-feet behind a vehicle.
The American Optometric Association says one age-related vision issue is difficulty adapting to glare from high beams.
3. Keep the windshield clean.
Make sure your windshield is clean. It might seem like common sense, but having a clean windshield, inside and out, makes a huge difference.
4. Dim your dash lights.
Most people do not realize that driving with your dash lights on maximum brightness can compromise your forward vision. To help combat this simply dim your instrument panel and dash lights.
5. Stay alert and sober.
Realize that at night, your depth perception, ability to distinguish color, and peripheral vision are all worse in low-light conditions, so staying alert and sober is one of the best drowsy driving remedies.
- If possible, have someone else in the car to talk to.
- Have some coffee or other caffeine products on board.
- Simply pull over in a safe location and stretch for a few minutes, you can even try rolling down the window.
6. Understand dangers posed by other drivers.
We all understand the dangers of alcohol. One thing everyone should realize is that even if you are sober and alert, other people will get boozed up and jump behind the wheel at night, therefore, putting you in potential danger should you be unfortunate enough to cross their drunken path.
7. Always wear your seatbelt.
Just a reminder, make sure you always wear your seatbelt, maintain a generous following distance, and use extra caution at intersections.
8. Stay off your phone.
Please, don’t text and drive, day OR night.
9. Get your vision checked regularly.
Making sure your vision isn't impaired due to eyesight issues is key in driving safely, day or night. An issue at night can be cataracts. According to the American Optometric Association, cataracts can cause "blurry vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, decreased ability to see under low light level conditions (such as when driving at night), dulling of colors and increased sensitivity to glare."
The AOA also suggests avoiding wearing glasses with wide frames (side arms) since they can restrict your vision.
10. Be prepared for emergencies.
Especially on a trip, it is important to keep a roadside emergency kit stashed in the back of their vehicle. You never know when an unexpected event will keep you from reaching your destination. A few necessities you should include:
- jumper cables
- a first aid kit
- a flashlight with extra batteries
- roadside flares
- a quart of oil
- multi-tool or miniature toolkit.
Driving at night doesn’t have to be unsafe. Use your best judgment and if you can avoid driving late at night, particularly on weekends, you should.