It’s that time of the year, when the sun sets earlier and earlier and we’re nearing the shortest days of the year. Less daylight means you could be driving in the dark, and that comes with increased risks.
How to stay safe when driving in the dark? First of all, know the risks:
Follow these tips to stay safe on the road.
Limit These Night Driving Distractions
Visibility decreases at night, and not just because the sun has gone down. There are a number of other factors affecting our vision, from vehicle settings to outside stimuli to our eyes.
Glare from oncoming headlights: Headlights on newer vehicles use HID and LED technology, both of which cause what’s called “discomfort glare.” Halogen headlights cause “disability” glare, which can be dangerous because it blocks objects in the road from our view. To diminish the effects of headlights shining right in your face, don’t stare directly at an oncoming vehicle.
Cloudy or poorly lit headlights: As headlamps age, they can get yellow or cloud up, reducing your nighttime visibility. Be sure to replace your headlamps at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer.
Too many lights inside the vehicle: If your cabin is brightly illuminated, you’ll have trouble seeing the dark road in front of you. Ask passengers to keep cabin lights off as much as possible, turn down the brightness on their personal devices, and do the same with your own navigation or infotainment screen inside the cabin.
A dirty windshield: Spots or dust on your windshield can create distortions that have the effect of blocking your view. Likewise for dry, cracked windshield wipers: Using damaged wipers at night can cause vision-impairing streaks on your windshield.
Eye troubles: Sometimes our eyes dry out when we drive at night, because we’re so focused on keeping them wide open and staying awake. Be sure to blink regularly, avoid aiming the car’s air vents toward your eyes, and use lubricating eye drops when you stop. Also, avoid wearing yellow-, amber- or other colored glasses.
To keep your vision strong as you age, eat plenty of richly colored fruits and vegetables (these increase the eyes’ protective macular pigment, which improves visual performance). And be sure to visit your eye doctor for regular eye exams. Certain eye conditions, such as cataracts, can severely limit your ability to see at night.
Sleep deprivation can lead to drowsy driving crashes, of which the NHTSA estimates there are at least 100,000 per year.
Get enough sleep on a routine basis: AAA says that those who get six to seven hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to be involved in a drowsy-driving crash as those who get eight hours or more. Those who sleep less than five hours increase their risk four to five times.
Avoid driving during regular sleeping hours: Most drowsy-driving crashes occur when our circadian rhythms dip. If at all possible, don’t drive when your internal clock wants you to be sleeping.
Be aware of the warning signs: We know what it’s like to feel drowsy behind the wheel, but it’s important to be especially alert to the signs: Frequent blinking or yawning; missing an exit or road sign; drifting out of your lane or hitting the rumble strips; or trouble remembering the past few miles.
Counsel your teen
Have a teenaged driver at home? You’ve probably gone over not texting while driving, alcohol use, and seat belt safety ad nauseum, but have you discussed nighttime driving risks with them?
Make sure you’re aware of the nighttime driving laws for teens in your state. In Arizona, new drivers (those who have had their license for less than six months) aren’t legally allowed to be behind the wheel on a public highway between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.
Keep yourself and others safe in all types of driving situations, including while driving at night. From Driver’s Education to Defensive Driving and other courses, we can help you perfect the skills you need on the road. Visit StopandGo1.com to learn more.