Road casualty statistics show that 40% of collisions occur in the hours of darkness. If you’re not used to driving at night or have very little mileage under your belt, you’re particularly vulnerable when driving in the dark. With that in mind, it’s essential that you know the risks of night-time driving and how to mitigate them – these driving at night tips are here to help.
It is illegal to drive at night without fully functioning front and rear lights. Before you set off, always check that all lights on the car are clean and working properly. In urban areas and when you spot an oncoming car, use dipped beam. You can use full beam on all other roads, and should definitely use them on unlit, country roads – but make sure you switch back to dipped beam when you see another car so you don’t dazzle them.
To prevent yourself from being dazzled, tilt your rear view mirror slightly to reduce the effect of the car headlights behind you and never look directly at the headlights of other cars.
Falling asleep while driving is a significant factor at night and accounts for 20% of serious road accidents. This can occur at any time of day but it tends to be worse at night when your body naturally wants to rest.
To prevent drowsy driving, make sure you’re well rested before you head off and don’t push yourself to drive further than you’re comfortable with – it’s not worth causing an accident over the price of a hotel room. The only natural cure for fatigue is proper sleep but if you want to motor on, you can reduce the effects of being tired for a while by drinking two strong coffees (or other high caffeine drinks) and to have a short nap for 15 minutes. But when you pop into the service station, don’t fill up on food as it might make you even sleepier.
Plan your journey in advance and factor in breaks every two hours. By allowing time for this, you won’t have to worry about being late if you pull over.
When driving at night, travel slower than you normally might to better see what’s coming up and react accordingly. Vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists, might not be wearing reflectors or lights so will be more difficult to see – the same goes for the single headlight of a motorcyclist. Slowing down is also important when driving from a well-lit area to a dark area because your eyes will need time to adjust.
Make sure your car windows are clean, inside and out, because dirty glass increases glare from other vehicles and is also more likely to steam up.
If you’re uncomfortable driving at night or want to increase your confidence and skills, there are many training programmes on offer that will help you.