As the days get shorter, it gets darker earlier and earlier. Other than being quite depressing, this can mean that for the majority of drivers it means driving in the dark on their way home from work.
While for seasoned drivers it can be smooth sailing, for new or inexperienced drivers this can induce a wave of anxiety. Driving in the dark can and will impose more challenges as you navigate the roads with a limited vision of both your vehicle and others.
To make our drivers feel more comfortable and safer when driving at night, we’ve put together a guide with safety tips and tricks to aid driving in the dark.
For some, driving in the dark can just be a minor inconvenience, while for others it can flash bright red warning signs.
Driving in the dark significantly increases the chances of an accident, so much so that, 40% of collisions occur in the hours of darkness. This can be down to both having an obscured vision, but also by tiredness.
Despite a 60% reduction in vehicles on the roads, you are 40% more likely to be involved in an accident simply because our friend, the sun is on break until the morning.
To help you and others stay safe on the roads at night we have compiled a list of safety tips for when driving in the dark.
As much as driving at night can mean an open empty road with no L-plate snails getting in your way, it’s equally as important to understand the additional risk and dangers of driving in the dark. So as much as you want to, it’s much safer to take your foot off the accelerator and drive at a steady pace.
You can also plan your journey ahead of time to ensure you have a firm understanding of the route, how long it will take, and any road works you may run into. Taking the time to look into how long your drive will take, means that you can set off in plenty of time to reach your destination and are in no rush.
This can also mean incorporating regular breaks into your route, is there a petrol station on the way you could stop and grab a coffee at? Somewhere you can pull off the motorway for a quick nap?
Whatever it is that you need, it’s important, especially when driving in the dark to take regular breaks and take your time.
Well not exactly, but the point is to use your lights appropriately. There are two important things you need to do both on-road and offroad to ensure you’re driving in the dark safely: regularly check your lights to ensure they work, and use the appropriate lighting setting for the appropriate situation.
Not only is it extremely dangerous, but it’s also illegal to drive at night with broken lights of any sorts – brake lights, headlights etc. So it’s of the utmost importance that you check all your lights regularly to ensure they are in good working order.
While this may seem fairly obvious, you’d be surprised as to how many people don’t pay attention to this. Use your lights as needed, full-beam is advised when roads aren’t lit by street lights, with the exception being when you have an oncoming vehicle.
The Institute of Advanced Motorists also advises that you turn on your headlights around an hour before sunset and keep them on until an hour after sunrise to ensure you are always visible to other drivers on the road.
Of course, some vehicles, such as the Renault Clio, have automatic headlights that adjust appropriately, but it’s still worth checking every so often to ensure they’re working as expected.
In any other situation, a dirty car is no more than procrastination gone on a little too long, however, when driving at night a dirty window can obscure your vision even more so.
If your windows or mirrors have smudges, smears, mud etc. this can cause glare when you’re driving, which is definitely not something you want when driving in the dark. So to avoid this, you should check all your windows and mirrors before you set off (ideally in daylight).
Sometimes, rinsing your front and rear window screens just aren’t going to cut it – which is where drastic measures come in. Okay, not so dramatic, but microfibre cloths are a lifesaver and can work to wash away any glare inducing smears.
Of course, you should always be vigilant on the road, but when driving in the dark this is amplified. Oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, animals, cyclists are all much more hidden when darkness hits so it’s your job to drive slowly, be observant and when necessary overly cautious.
If this means driving much slower round a bend than you normally would, or being stuck behind a cyclist for longer than you intend to be, it’s important to drive safely at night.
It’s also important to note that things are much less visible when driving at night, not everyone is wearing high visibility jackets and therefore can blend into the darkness making your job that much harder.
No matter how safe you are when driving at night, you cannot control how other drivers choose to drive – so keeping a distance is vital. If a car is driving erratically or faster than the speed limit, it may be wise to hold back and just leave them to it.
Equally, if a car is driving much slower than the speed limit it’s important to not get up their rear. We’ve all been in that situation, and as tempting as it can be to overtake, beep or flash the vehicle – that will only exacerbate the situation and possibly cause an accident.
There can be a number of reasons cars are acting suspiciously erratic or slow-moving on the road, driving in the dark is not the time to increase your already high chances of a collision. They could be half-asleep, in a rush, or driving a stolen car, whatever the reason, you should always hold back and keep a safe distance.
If you’re a new driver or just prone to distractions, removing them when driving at night can be a smart move. Whether it’s listening to music or eating/drinking, especially when driving at night you need to keep your focus on the wheel and the road.
If music causes no distraction and just presents a bit of background noise, by all means, play the radio or your favourite tunes, however, if playing music is the opportunity for you to play a one-man concert in your car it’s probably best to avoid it – even if you’re really good!
The same with eating and drinking, it takes your attention away from the road and into whatever you put into your mouth. While drinking a coffee may be important to wake you up, it’s advised to do so before you set off or pull over and take breaks.
Eating and drinking can also present the problem of having something in your hands that limits your ability to react in the case of an accident. If your hand is reaching for a bag of Fruit Pastels, or holding a caramel latte your reaction will be much more delayed and panicked.
Like with everything else in life, practice is key. Pencil in some time that you’re free to practice driving in the dark, that way you’re not rushing on the way to your dentist appointment or to get to the supermarket before it closes.
For learners, you will need an accompanying adult to supervise you so make sure to ask if your parents or a family member is free to do so. Similarly, ask your driving instructor if you’re able to schedule a lesson in the dark so you can get some practice with someone whom you feel comfortable.
With the risk of sounding like a naggy parent, or a flight attendant, please refrain from using your mobile phone. You should not under any circumstances be using your phone or looking at your phone in any capacity while driving, especially in the dark.
This includes talking on the phone, yes, even hands-free. Talking on the phone is yet another distraction that you don’t need when driving in the dark – and as much as your friend needs to hear about your horrible haircut, it can wait till you get home.
This includes having your phone in sight when driving, as in the dark your phone will light up the car when you have a notification and it will be that much more enticing to check it. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so put your phone in the glove compartment, in your bag or pocket – wherever is out of sight and out of reach.
As much as you have control over your own vehicle, that doesn’t change the fact that you have no control over how others choose to drive. Especially when it comes to driving in the dark and full beam, this is something we’ve all had the displeasure of experiencing.
For some, taking off their full beam when approaching an oncoming vehicle isn’t as common as it should be. This can cause you to have obscured vision and to panic, remember to stay calm and just avoid looking head-on into the lights, and slow down if you need to.
The same can be said for you as well, don’t be a Paul. Paul doesn’t dip his lights for oncoming traffic and blinds people.
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