Driving at Night
Traffic deaths are three times greater at night than during the day according to the National Safety Council. Yet many of us are unaware of night driving's special hazards or don't know effective ways to deal with them.
Driving at night is more of a challenge than people think. It's also more dangerous
Why is night driving so dangerous? One obvious answer is darkness. Ninety percent of a driver's reaction depends on vision, and vision is severely limited at night. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision are compromised after sundown.
Everything is more difficult to see at night because...well...the sun's gone! Because bright street lights are focused on illuminating the road, buildings and landmarks alongside the road become nearly invisible. These items are especially useful in determining following distances and closure rates of oncoming cars. Basically, when the sun goes down, you lose many reference points. Without them, it becomes increasingly difficult to judge distance.
While your teen years may argue that their “young eyes” can see better than yours (which is probably true), there's no arguing that one's night vision is worse than one's day vision. Although everyone's night vision varies, the effects of reduced light upon one's vision is the same for all of us. Namely, your peripheral vision is sharply reduced, your depth of field is reduced, and the low light makes it more difficult to focus on objects. Therefore, you may suffer eye straining from prolonged night driving.
The glare from headlights of oncoming cars poses a potentially dangerous threat if you are to stare at them for too long. Also, some people suffer from night time vision problems in which bright lights are seen with a halo or star burst effect. To avoid being blinded by the glare, tell your teen to direct their vision slightly to the right of the oncoming vehicles. If you experience glare from cars behind you, make sure that you have set your mirrors to the BGE (blind spot and glare elimination) setting. This will help reduce glare from following vehicles. Also, make sure your front windshield is clean. A dirty windshield can amplify glare.
Older drivers have even greater difficulties seeing at night. A 50-year old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year old driver.
Another factor adding danger to night driving is fatigue. Drowsiness makes driving more difficult by dulling concentration and slowing reaction time.
Traffic crashes that include at least one driver or motorcycle operator with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 g/dl or greater account for about 32% of total traffic fatalities. That makes weekend nights more dangerous. More fatal crashes take place on weekend nights than any other time during the week.
Fortunately, you can take sever effective measures to minimize these after-dark dangers by preparing your car and following special guidelines while you drive
The National Safety Council recommends the following
Prepare your car for night driving. Clear headlights, taillights, signal lights, and windows (inside and out) once a week, or more if necessary.
Have your headlights properly aimed. Misaimed headlights blind other drivers and reduce the ability to see the road
Don't drink and drive. Not only does alcohol severely impair your driving ability, it also acts as a depressant. Just one drink can induce fatigue.
Avoid smoking when you drive. Smoke's nicotine and carbon monoxide hamper night vision.
If there is any doubt, turn headlights on. Lights will not help you see better in early twilight, but they will make it easier for other drivers to see you. Being seen is as important as seeing.
Reduce your speed and increase following distance. It is more difficult to judge other vehicle's speeds and distances at night.
Don't overdrive headlights. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area. If you're not, you're creating a blind crash area in front of your vehicle.
When following another vehicle, keep headlights on low beams so you don't blind the driver ahead of you.
If an oncoming vehicle doesn't lower beams from high to low, avoid glare by watching the right edge of the road and using it as a steering guide.
Make frequent stops for light snacks and exercise. If you're too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.
If you have trouble, pull of the road as far as possible. Warn approaching traffic at once by setting up reflecting triangles near your vehicle and 300 feet behind it. Turn on flashers and the dome light. Stay off the roadway and get passengers away from the area.
Observe night driving safety as soon as the sun goes down. Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive because your eyes are constantly changing to adapt to the growing darkness.