There are several precautions you can take at night as a defensive driver, below are just a few of the important tips you will learn.
There are several factors that contribute to the dangers of nighttime driving: Darkness, decreased visibility, night blindness, construction, animals, and impaired drivers.
Here is how to deal which each of these risk factors.
Not everyone is aware but a driver’s visibility is limited to about 500 feet even with high-beam headlights on. This goes down to just 250 feet if they are using normal headlights.
So when you’re shrouded in darkness and you can only see as much, you’ll have less time to react to any possible incident you may encounter on a dark road, especially when you are driving at higher speeds.
So what can you do to combat darkness?
- Be aware that headlight visibility is about 200-500 feet, so when driving at night factor that into your reaction time.
- Make sure your headlights, high beams and tailights are clean and in good working order. Make sure they are aimed correctly so you can see as far ahead as possible.
- Use your lights as soon as the sun begins going down. It is better to have them on too early than too late.
- Be careful with your high beams. High beams are great when driving on a road without adequate street lighting, however your high beams can blind other drivers. So when you are approaching a driver either in front of you or from oncoming traffic, turn them off.
- Clean your windshield to eliminate streaking from lights. Also keep your defrost on in the presence of condensation to improve visibility.
- Drive slower so you have more reaction time in case of wild animals, road debris, or other things that can cause an accident.
- Allow more space between you and other drivers. If someone is rushing you, instead of trying to match their speed, let them pass. Always give yourself adequate reaction time.
- If you have to wear glasses while driving at night, make sure they are anti-reflective.
- If you live in a rural area, consider adding auxiliary lights to your vehicle to increase your visibility.
If you’ve already heard about night vision, it is a driver’s ability to see clearly even if they find themselves in areas with low-light conditions.
This ability becomes less effective as we age. That’s why older people have greater difficulty seeing at night. They may even have their vision compromised due to cataracts and other degenerative eye diseases, causing night blindness.
But note that even younger drivers can have this condition. So what can you do to stay safe at night if you have this?
- Many people suffer from night blindness, especially people who are older. So make sure you have an annual vision exam to ensure that you can see adequately at night.
- Minimize your distractions. If you have trouble seeing at night, you need to concentrate on the road.
- Dim your interior lights. If you interior lights are too bright, they can cause glare and confused your vision.
Reduce your speed and give yourself more time to react.
- Try not to look at oncoming headlights. The glare and brightness can confuse your eyes and create even more night blindness.
- Take a refresher driving course, you can learn how to drive better with changes in your vision.
- Be realistic about your capabilities. If you have a hard time seeing at night, limit your driving to daytime hours or let someone else drive. Your pride is not worth risk your life and the lives of others.
- In a lot of cities, construction happens at night so that less people are inconvenienced. Be aware that you may run into construction, especially on popular roads like the highway.
- Take your time passing a construction site. Follow all directions and posted signs.
- Be extremely cautious when it comes to road workers. When passing a construction site, take time to notice where the workers are and if they are near where you are driving, slow way down.
- There are many nocturnal animals like raccoons, possums, and deer that can try to cross the road at night. Be aware of the animals in your area and what times they are most likely to be out.
- Be mindful of any animal crossing signs and drive cautiously through these areas.
- Install deer whistles on your car to signal animals that you are coming.
- It is very difficult to see animals at night, the best way to spot them is through the reflection their retinas
In one study, they found that almost 60% of adult drivers have admitted that they have driven while they were tired, and about 37% of them have fallen asleep while driving.
Scary, right? Fatigue is not an easy thing to deal with when driving. Driving at night only makes it worse as drivers will be sleepy, and drowsy driving puts everyone on the road at risk.
So what can you do to avoid having to drive when you’re feeling tired?
- Try and get at least six or more hours of sleep a night.
- If you can’t help it, stop driving every two hours to rest.
- If you have been awake for 16 hours or more, don’t attempt to drive.
- If you’re drowsy, pull over and take a nap.
- Avoid traveling during the times when you normally sleep, plan your trip accordingly.
Impaired drivers are usually on the road after dark, right after partying until midnight. They are either impaired by alcohol, or worse, illegal drugs.
Other drivers may be impaired because they’ve taken prescription medicines or other over-the-counter drugs that can cause sleepiness, etc.
So what can be done to stay safe at night despite the number of impaired drivers around?
- Never drive when you are drunk. Even if you’ve only had one drink. Drunk drivers are the number one cause of accidents at night, so do not put yourself and others at risk.
- If you start feeling tired or nodding off on the road, pull over immediately. Never drive when you are tired, it is almost as dangerous as driving drunk.
- Try not to take any medication before driving, especially if drowsiness is a side effect.
- Be aware of highway hypnosis and its effects. If you notice you are starting to get highway hypnosis, turn on the radio and some cool area.
- Pay close attention to the other drivers on the road. Notice if their driving is unusual or erratic. If it is, they may be impaired, so you want to use extra caution.
- If you spot an impaired driver, try to stay as far away from the driver as possible.
- Drive very defensively. Watch every move the driver makes and be prepared for anything from stopping to swerving to sudden turns.
- Do not try to pass them. Just stay behind them with a good distance.
- If you can, take down their license plate number. Then pull over and inform the local police. You may save a life.
Driving at night can be very dangerous, however if you are aware of the risks and how to mitigate them, you will be safe on the road. If you’d like to learn more about safe nighttime driving, consider taking an Illinois adult online drivers education course. Even experienced drivers can learn some great tips to keep them safe at night.
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