It can be tempting to go for a drive at night, whether you’re looking to clear your head or avoid peak rush-hour traffic. While going for a nighttime drive certainly has its benefits, driving at this time also presents more dangers than a daytime trip. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than half of unrestrained fatal crashes occur at nighttime. Given the relatively higher risk of nighttime driving, we created this article to help you and your passengers stay safe the next time you go for a midnight cruise.
Potential Hazards of Nighttime Driving
Driving at dawn, dusk, or during the dead of night presents unique challenges that may test the skills of even an experienced motorist. Some potential hazards to be aware of include:
- A lack of light & reduced visibility: It goes without saying, but it gets quite dark at night. Particularly if you’re traveling on country roads or a poorly-lit freeway, it can be challenging to see what is in front of or behind your vehicle. Low lighting can negatively impact peripheral vision, color recognition, and depth perception. This makes it more challenging to view and respond to obstacles, avoid wildlife, or maintain a safe following distance. Elderly drivers or motorists with impaired vision may struggle.
- Headlight glare: A car’s headlights are able to produce two different kinds of glare that can impair another driver’s vision. Discomfort glare occurs when a person views a bright light. It can make drivers take their eyes off the road, drift into another lane, or slow unexpectedly. Disability glare occurs when stray light impairs visibility and hinders a driver’s ability to see.
- Drunk drivers: One of the hazards of driving at night is an increased risk of encountering drunk or impaired drivers. An impaired driver will have slower reaction times, poor judgment, and a reduced ability to keep their vehicle in its proper lane of travel.
- Drowsy driving: Most motorists are aware of the hazard of drunk or impaired driving, but drowsy driving can be as dangerous in some cases. Drowsy driving can reduce a motorist’s reaction times, impair cognitive thinking, and reduce a person’s ability to control their car.
Although the challenges of driving at night can be overcome, they do increase the risk of experiencing a car crash. A car accident lawyer in Portland may be able to help if you experience a collision caused by the careless or negligent actions of another driver.
How to Safely Drive at Night
Driving at night can be challenging, especially for younger motorists without much experience behind the wheel. We’ve included some tips and strategies to help drivers enjoy their next trip after dark.
Get Sufficient Rest Before Getting Behind the Wheel
Driving while tired can be dangerous. Even if you don’t fall asleep behind the wheel, your reaction time will be slower than usual, which increases the risk of getting into an accident. By getting sufficient rest, you can be more attentive to the road.
Check Your Headlights
The amount of light put out by your vehicle’s headlights can be affected by the cleanliness of your car and the state of the lightbulbs themselves. If you are unable to see clearly at night, you may want to have the lamp assembly cleaned or replaced. Some cars have a switch that allows you to adjust the angle of the headlights if you notice they aren’t providing enough light. For other vehicle models, you’ll need to have the lamps adjusted by a mechanic.
Use a Mirror Dimmer
If the car behind you has their high beam headlights turned on, the reflection off your rearview and side mirrors can be blinding. This may reduce your ability to see behind your car and adjust to any hazards. While many vehicles have auto-dimming mirrors that can reduce the impact on your driving ability, you should know where the manual dimmer switch is and how to use it.
Use High Beams Correctly
Your vehicle’s high beam headlights can help you see further ahead, giving you more time and space to adjust to obstacles in your path. Keep in mind that you should toggle your high beam lights off if there is oncoming traffic, as your lights may blind drivers traveling in the opposite direction. High beam lights are particularly effective on low-lit roadways, such as country highways.
Even with your high beams on, you will not be able to see as far as you would if you were driving in daylight. Be sure to maintain a safe traveling speed that gives you plenty of time to slow down, stop, or change lanes to avoid obstructions. When changing lanes, always use your turn indicators so that other drivers understand what your intentions are. By being more predictable to other drivers, you help keep everyone safe on the road.
Practice Defensive Driving & Prioritize Your Safety
Anytime you are driving when there is limited visibility, you should practice defensive driving and take any measures necessary to protect yourself and your vehicle’s occupants. Be sure to drive at a safe speed, use your high beams properly, and maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles. We hope these tips help you enjoy a safe, uneventful drive the next time you’re out past dark!