Night Driving Tips - Maximize your Vision and Minimize Accidents
The riskiest time for driving is between 12 am and 6 am, but why is that exactly? Surely there are fewer vehicles on the road at that time of night, so what accounts for the additional risk? There are actually many factors which increase the risk of nighttime driving including:
- People on the road at night are more likely to be tired.
- The lights of oncoming vehicles can leave you blind for up to five seconds at a time.
- The lights of vehicles behind you can cause glare inside your car.
- Deer and other animals are active at night and can hide in the darkness, seeming to appear on the road out of nowhere.
Prepare yourself and eyes
If you are going to be driving at night, no matter what your age, it is vitally important that you are prepared. If you end up making an unexpected trip in the dark and find yourself tired, it's essential that you pull over and rest in a safe place so that you are not a danger to yourself or others on the road. Remember, tired driving is as dangerous as drunk driving because your reaction time can be equally affected, plus you run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel. Other things that you can do to make your nighttime trips as safe as possible:
- Make sure that you see your eye doctor regularly for eye exams. (At least once every two years, more often if you have certain conditions. Diabetics should see their eye doctor every year.) This way any problems with night vision can be noted and dealt with.
- Don't forget your vitamins. Vitamin A deficiency causes a condition called night blindness which can make it difficult or impossible to drive safely at night.
Prepare your car
There are several things that you should do to get your car ready for safe night driving. This includes making it easier for you to see where you are going as well as easier for others to see where you are.
- Make sure that your your headlights and taillights are all working properly. The headlights must be clean whenever you head out on a nighttime trip, especially when there's bad weather like rain, snow or fog.
- Your headlights should be properly aimed so that they are focused where you need them.
- Make sure that your windshield and back glass are clean so that there is no glare or obstructed vision.
- Adjust your outside mirrors so that they are in the right place; the body of your car should be just outside of the vision of the mirrors. Your rear and side mirrors should also be adjusted so that the glare from the headlights behind you is not a problem.
While on the road
Night vision can be affected before the sun even goes down, so to make sure that your eyes stay sensitive, wear sunglasses during bright sunny days. Also:
- Make sure that you are looking from side to side so that your eyes stay sensitive to the darkness.
- Do not look at oncoming headlights while driving; it can leave you blind for as much as five full seconds.
- Make sure that you use your high beams are correctly. For instance, if you are driving in the fog, use your low beams only because the high beams will not allow you to see well. Make sure that you don't use your high beams if traffic is coming toward you either, and hopefully oncoming traffic will afford you the same courtesy.
- If you find yourself staring at the white line or other fixed object for too long, you may succumb to ‘highway hypnosis,’ which will decrease your reaction time.
- Never overdrive your headlights. If you are traveling too fast at night you won't see hazards in time to avoid them.
- If you are driving through wooded areas, use your peripheral vision to watch for deer on the sides of the road. Oftentimes, you won't see the deer themselves, but their eyes reflecting the headlights of passing cars. If you have any passengers in your vehicle, ask them to keep watch so you can focus your attention on your driving.
- If you are over the age of 60 it is important to continually evaluate your nighttime driving skills, so that you are not endangering yourself and others. Sadly, night vision tends to worsen with age, so at some point you may need to limit your driving to daytime hours.
Nighttime driving can be full of unpleasant surprises, so always expect the unexpected. Make sure you're alert at all times and ready for any emergency situation that could possibly crop up. Above all else, if at any point you feel like you're not seeing clearly, find a safe spot to pull over. And if you can't remedy the situation, just wait for daylight. It's much better to arrive a little later than planned, than to risk your safety and everyone else's.
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