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9 Tips for Staying Safe Whilst Driving in the Dark

Posted by Greg Saunderson on

The clocks have gone back, the dark nights are now upon us and driving in the dark is inevitable.

With 40% of collisions occurring at night, and a spike in road users killed or seriously injured every year the clocks go back, we’ve got your back with nine tips to consider when you set off on the road at night.

In this guide you’ll find tips on:

  1. Adjusting and cleaning your mirrors
  2. Checking your lights and how to use them
  3. The importance of wiping your windscreen
  4. Keeping a safe distance
  5. Getting your eyes tested regularly
  6. Dimming your dashboard lights
  7. Finding a well-lit route
  8. Avoiding the road if you're feeling tired
  9. Why you should take your time

     

    1. Adjust and clean your mirrors

    car wing mirror with rain on windows

    Dirty mirrors can often cause reflections and distort the light from other vehicles behind you. To avoid the dreaded glare when driving at night, make sure to give your mirrors a wipe with glass cleaner and a microfibre cloth before setting off on your journey.

    Adjusting your mirrors can also help avoid glare and light reflection. Aim your wing mirrors down slightly so that you can still see the vehicles behind whilst avoiding other car headlights shining back in to your eyes.

    There’s also a tab on your rear-view mirror. Flip it to the ‘night mode’ setting to darken the reflection in the mirror and prevent any strong glare.

     

    2. Check your lights and use them wisely

    car headlight with yellow light and rain

    Did you know it is illegal to drive at night with broken or defective lights? If you get pulled over, you could land a £1,000 fine. So, before you set off on your journey at night, check both front and rear lights are working and give them a quick clean if they’ve got a lot of dirt on them.

    Advice from Greenflag states you should turn your headlights on an hour before sunset and keep them on an hour after sunrise to ensure you’re always visible to other road users.

    Sometimes headlights can be uneven or can point either too low or too high, blinding oncoming traffic. You’ll be able to find instructions on how to aim your headlights in your handbook.

    The bright lights from oncoming vehicles often cause the ‘dazzle effect’ – one of the biggest hazards when driving at night. When driving on rural roads, use your full beams where possible but make sure to dip your headlights when you encounter another road user to avoid dazzling them.

    The darkness and fog are a dangerous combination and make driving at night even harder. If you need to make a journey when it’s foggy outside, make sure you know how to use your fog lights.

    Fog lights are usually found on the front below your headlights and on the tail lights at the rear. How you turn on your fog lights will be determined by the model of the vehicle you’re driving. There will either be buttons at the side of the steering wheel or symbols on the indicator stalk, where you will need to twist it to turn them on. If you’re unsure on how to turn your fog lights on, check your vehicle handbook.

     

    3. Wipe your windscreen

    car with wet and dirty windscreen

    What may look clean during the day, may reveal hidden streaks at night.

    Keep your windows clean inside and out - especially the windscreen. A build-up of dirt and condensation on the windows is one of the main culprits of glare when driving at night.

    Dirty windows are also more prone to steaming up, so try cleaning the exterior windows first, then when it gets to the interior you can identify any smears and marks that will need wiping clear.

    Avoid touching the windows with your hands, as oil on your skin can cause smears on the glass, something that is more noticeable at night.

    Keep a microfibre cloth handy in your car and use this when you need to wipe the windscreen or your side windows. The traditional trick of using some old newspaper also works wonders to remove any residue, absorbing any liquid and catching leftover dirt.

     

    4. Keep at a safe distance

    car driving with car in front

    Following another vehicle too closely, also known as tailgating, is dangerous and can put you and the other driver at risk of an accident. The closer you travel to the vehicle in front, the less you can see of the road ahead, making it harder to react to any hazards that may suddenly appear.

    Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front to allow time to react if anything does get in your way. The three-second rule is a good rule of thumb to follow, allowing three seconds worth of room between you and the vehicle in front.

    You can work this out by picking a fixed point at the side of the road, like a speed limit sign or lamppost, and when the vehicle in front passes this point, start counting to three in your head. If you reach the point before three seconds, you are driving too close.

    The three seconds should increase to at least nine seconds if you’re driving in bad weather conditions.

     

    5. Get your eyes tested regularly

    woman getting eyes tested

    Our eyesight and the ability to see well in low-light conditions decreases with age. An older driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a younger driver, making it even more difficult to drive at night.

    For most people, it’s recommended that you get your eyes tested every two years. But, if you start to experience problems with your vision, you should book to get your eyes tested as soon as possible. If you need glasses for driving at night, make sure you opt for the anti-reflection coating on your lenses to reduce glare.

    Some people use yellow tinted night driving glasses with an anti-reflective coating to eliminate any internal reflections of light that cause glare. Although, there is no proof to show that these glasses actually work and there’s also evidence to suggest a yellow tint can even reduce visibility.

     

    6. Dim your dashboard

    car dashboard lights

    These days, many new vehicles come with all the mod cons including bright dashboard LEDs and infotainment screens. All these mod cons produce a lot of light, something that can cause a distraction and reduce your visibility when driving.

    Dimming the dashboard lights will remove any reflections on the windscreen and will help your eyes to adjust to the darkness of the road ahead, improving your overall night-time visibility.

    Most modern cars will come with a dashboard dimmer switch to do this. If you’re unsure, check your vehicles handbook.

    7. Find a well-lit route

    motorway with street lighting

    Driving in the dark can cause a period of blind driving, known as night blindness. If you do need to travel at night, try to stick to well-lit routes rather than going down the backroads.

    Well-lit routes will give you that extra bit of lighting to help you see further ahead and scan the road for any animals, sharp turns and any other hazards.

    If a dark route can’t be avoided, make sure to maintain a safe speed, use your full beam appropriately and pay extra attention to the road ahead.

    8. Make sure you're well rested

    unmade bed with white covers

    Driving at night can be more dangerous because you are more likely to experience tiredness or fatigue.

    Our bodies are naturally programmed to be asleep at night and awake during the day which is regulated by our internal body clock. With the shorter days, our brain produces more melatonin which makes us feel more tired. The release of this sleep hormone is tied to the sunset, so when the sun sets earlier, our bodies want to go to bed earlier. Before getting behind the wheel, make sure you have had plenty of rest and don’t feel tired.

    Driving whilst tired not only puts yourself at risk, but other road users too. If at any point you start to feel drowsy, make sure to stop where it’s safe to do so and take a break.

    If you’re going to be driving for a long period of time through the night, make sure to plan ahead and schedule in 15-minute rest stops every two hours to stretch your legs and get some fresh air before continuing your journey.

    Driving at night can be more dangerous because you are more likely to experience tiredness or fatigue.

    9. Take your time

    hand holding a small white alarm clock

    There is no need to rush when it comes to driving. Try to allow extra time before setting off on your journey, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

    Make sure to stick to a speed in which you feel comfortable and in control of the car. It is best to slightly lower your speed when driving at night as your reaction time is slower than it is in daylight, giving you more time to identify road signs and react to any potential dangers.

    For most drivers, driving at night is unavoidable but taking these tips into consideration will help you to keep yourself, passengers and other road users safe. For more tips on road safety, why not check out our handy guide on road signs and their meanings.


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