For many drivers, hitting the road at night is unavoidable–especially during the shorter days during the winter months. Whether you work a late shift, drive at night as part of your job, or have to pick up and drop off kids or family members at their activities, driving at night can put you at greater risk for accidents and traffic fatalities. Stay safe out there by stocking up on nighttime driving facts and defensive tactics to protect you, your passengers, and other drivers on the roads.
Vision is Key.
The majority of nighttime driving fatalities occur because of low vision–which can be caused by fog, poor weather conditions, a badly-lit road, insufficient headlights, or compromised night vision. To stay safe on the road, it’s your job to optimize your vision as much as possible.
- Safety-check your headlights. If any bulbs seem dimmer than they should (or burned out completely), replace them. If your lens covers seem foggy or dull, invest in a polishing kit to get them sparkling and clear again. Read up on the correct way to aim your headlights (hint: they should aim downward and toward the right-hand side of the road).
- Safety-check your vision. You should get an eye exam at least once a year–and if you wear glasses, making sure you have an up-to-date prescription is absolutely crucial for safe nighttime driving. Invest in the anti-reflective coating to cut down on glare if you wear glasses.
- Don’t wear non-prescription “nighttime driving glasses.“Some companies market glasses as improving sight at night. Although they might make lines appear to be crisper, they actual impede your ability to discern between finer shadows and shapes when it’s dark; it’s basically like wearing lightly tinted sunglasses at night. Not a great idea for safety. Instead, make sure your regular glasses or contacts are up-to-date, and your windows and mirrors are clean.
Sleep Deprivation Can Be Deadly.
Even the shortest trips can be disastrous if you’re driving when you need sleep. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived drivers can be just as dangerous as drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol: your reaction times slow down dramatically, your judgment is significantly impaired, and you’re less likely to see hazards heading your way when you’re exhausted. Instead of driving when you’re in desperate need of sleep, try these tips:
- Take a short nap. Even a twenty-minute nap can give you the energy you need to make a short drive. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, just lean your seat back and get a little shut-eye before hitting the road.
- Eat something. Giving your body a jolt of fuel (real fuel, not just sugar or caffeine) can wake up your senses and help you stay focused on the road. Try combining a balanced combination of carbs, fats, and veggies to wake up your senses and ensure you’re not running on empty.
- Rearrange your schedule. Not everything is within your control, but consider what you can control about your nighttime driving habits, and set yourself up for success–whether that means getting more sleep when you can, planning a nap or breakfast before you hit the road, or saying no to some nighttime activities.
Slowing Down Helps Everything.
Unpopular fact: slowing down–slower than the speed limit, even–keeps you far safer. Especially at night, when you have to react more quickly due to lower light conditions. Hit the brakes, don’t get in a hurry, and keep your eyes moving so you’re more likely to see something unexpected before you hit it. You won’t regret it.