Defensive driving habits are wise at any hour of the day, but nighttime presents some unique driving challenges. According to the National Safety Council, fatal accidents are more likely to occur at night. In fact, nighttime driving is considered one of the top causes of car accidents overall. Protect yourself—and others—by refreshing yourself with these 10 tips for night driving safety.
10 Helpful Safety Tips for Driving at Night
What are some things you can keep in mind when you’re behind the wheel at night? Take a look at this quick guide.
- Test Your Lights
- Clean Your Windshield
- Adjust Your Interior Lights
- Use Your High Beams When Necessary
- Reduce Speed and Increase Distance
- Watch Out for Drunk Drivers
- Avoid Fatigued Driving
- Stay Alert for Wildlife
- Protect Your Night Vision from Oncoming Traffic
- Test Your Vision
1. Test Your Lights
Before you even get behind the wheel, do a quick check of your car’s lighting system. This includes your main headlights, but also your tail lights, high beams, turn signals, and any and all emergency lights that are installed on your vehicle.
A regular inspection of your vehicle can ensure that your headlights are angled correctly. If you’re not sure whether your headlights are properly aligned, take your car to a local repair facility to have your headlights checked.
Improper alignment doesn’t just mean decreased visibility for you; it can also blind oncoming drivers. So be sure that your lights are in good working order before you’re on the road.
2. Clean Your Windshield
Dirty windshields reduce visibility and can magnify the glare of streetlights and oncoming motorists—both of which can wreak havoc with your night vision. Dirty windshields can also reflect light back at other motorists. Be sure to clean your windshield—outside and inside—to keep your visibility clear.
3. Adjust Your Interior Lights
Most vehicles have a function to dim your car’s dashboard, protecting your night vision. Additionally, avoid looking at any electronic screens—such as your phone or GPS system—which can also diminish your ability to see in the dark.
4. Use Your High Beams When Necessary
When you’re driving on open roads or rural areas, your high beams can help you to see into the distance. Just be sure to dim them when you approach oncoming vehicles, or if you’re following another motorist.
5. Reduce Speed and Increase Distance
One of the easiest safety tips for driving in the dark is to simply slow down and put more distance between your vehicle and your fellow motorists. Exceeding the speed limit by only 5 mph in the wrong place can still create danger.
How do you know when you’re too close? Look at the path of your headlights. You should be able to stop within the illuminated area. If the car in front of you is within that area, you’re too close.
6. Watch Out for Drunk Drivers
At night, there’s a greater chance of getting into an accident with a drunk driver (drunk driving is a leading cause of car accidents). If you see someone that you believe may be driving under the influence, keep a safe distance. If you can, contact 911.
And, of course, never get behind the wheel of your own vehicle if you’ve been drinking. Your level of impairment may be higher than you think, putting yourself and others at risk.
7. Avoid Fatigued Driving
Americans often complain that they’re not getting enough sleep. But that lack of sleep can pose a major safety hazard. One recent study shows that even moderate sleep deprivation can be the equivalent of being legally drunk. It’s best to avoid getting behind the wheel until you’re well-rested.
If you can’t avoid driving at night, don’t let driver fatigue get the best of you. If you’re traveling with a companion, take turns driving while the other passenger naps. If you must drive, don’t be afraid to pull over every 2-3 hours for a rest break.
8. Stay Alert for Wildlife
Collisions with deer and other animals can cause major damage, even becoming fatal. Your high beams can help you to spot animals entering the road. If you see an animal, resist the urge to swerve. It’s safer to slow down and stop until the roadway is clear.
9. Protect Your Night Vision from Oncoming Traffic
It’s actually ideal not to use divided highways if you can help it, since oncoming headlights can ruin your night vision. But if you are on a road where you’re faced with oncoming headlights, look away—over to the right side of the road—in order to preserve your night vision.
If overhead street lights are a problem, you can adjust your visor to protect your eyes.
10. Test Your Vision
Driving in the dark safety tips are only helpful if your vision is healthy. Getting an annual eye exam can ensure that your eyes are at their best.
As people age, their vision changes, so staying on top of your eye health becomes increasingly necessary as you get older. If you already wear glasses, you may need a different prescription for driving at night, so check in with your eye doctor regularly.
Teach Your Teens Night Driving Safety Tips
If you’re raising a teenager, you may want to share these nighttime driving safety tips with your rookie driver. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, whether it’s day or night. And by making these tips a regular part of your defensive driving habits, you’ll make the road safer for yourself and your fellow motorists.
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