Driving at night might mean roads are quieter but travelling in darkness isn't without its risks. Reduced vision makes it more difficult to read signs, spot hazards and notice other road users, while tiredness can have a huge impact on a driver's judgement and reaction times.
According to research cited by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 40% of all UK road accidents occur when it's dark. That's a huge percentage, especially when considering that just 15% of road traffic's clocked between the hours of 7pm and 7am.
Along with reduced visibility and tiredness, there are other factors beyond your control that could impact your road safety. Drivers under the influence of drink or drugs drive mostly during the night; you need to be cautious of any road users acting unpredictably and make sure you give them plenty of space.
Driving in the dark has potential dangers for all road users; but, new drivers and drivers with little experience of night driving are particularly vulnerable. Either way, reading our tips on night driving will help to keep you as safe as possible once the sun has gone down.
It's quite simple: If you're feeling sleepy, don't get behind the wheel. Driving requires a huge amount of concentration and although you might have the mind-set of 'it'll never happen to me,' the reality is that thousands of UK drivers nod off behind the wheel every year. Drowsy driving could be fatal; not only are you putting your safety at risk, but the safety of other road users as well.
If you're making a lengthy trip, when planning your journey account for time to take several breaks. To stay focused whilst driving, the Highway Code recommends a 15 minute rest for every two hours spent on the road. If at any point you feel overcome with tiredness, pull over somewhere safe — such as in a service station — and take a longer nap. Drinking caffeinated drinks will also help to keep you alert but they're not a long term solution.
Before setting off on a night drive, make sure all your exterior lights are dirt-free and check they work. Your headlights should be switched on before sunset and kept on for around an hour after sunrise so you're nice and visible to other road users. Interior lights should be switched off whilst driving and your dashboard lights should be dimmed. Bright phone screens or sat navs can also be a distraction, so turn down the brightness or store them away.
Make sure your lights are positioned so they sufficiently light up the road ahead without blinding other drivers. Switch off your full beams whenever you notice an oncoming vehicle approaching; if they don't turn theirs off and you can't see clearly, look for the road lines on the left and follow them until you can look straight ahead again.
The slightest bit of grime on your windscreen or windows could impede your vision during the night, increasing the glare from oncoming lights. So, make sure you regularly clean your windows inside and out, using good quality products that'll leave the glass shining and smear-free.
If visibility's reduced, you should reduce your speed too. Make sure you're driving at a speed that enables you to spot hazards and react in a timely manner, and leave bigger gaps between your car and the car in front.
While approaching motorists will make their presence known by their glimmering headlights, you need to be extra vigilant of more vulnerable road users who might not be as visible, such as cyclists and pedestrians who aren't wearing reflective clothing.
Driving at nights puts strain on your eyes, so it's important to have your sight checked on a regular basis. An appointment with an optician could flag up underlying issues such as glaucoma, which will affect your night vision. If you wear glasses, avoid dark or tinted lenses when driving at night.
If you lack confidence or experience in driving at night, you might want to consider further training to help you feel more comfortable. If you've recently passed your test, you could take a Pass Plus course; created by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), one of its six modules involves night driving.
If you've got years of driving experience under your belt but simply don't feel confident on the road when it's dark, you could book a refresher lesson with an instructor who'll give you advice on night-time driving. Or, you could get in contact with the local RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders Group who can offer further training.
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