Night Driving Safety Guide

By: Robert. Wood

Night driving is responsible for thousands of accidents a year, and many of the UK's road deaths. Here is a quick and straight-forward guide to making sure that your after-dark journey does not end in disaster.

Why is night driving dangerous?

Because there are fewer cars on the road at night there are fewer accidents after dark than during the day. However, the proportion of fatalities caused by night driving is much higher. According to the AA, the main causes of these night accidents are tiredness, inattention, driving whilst under the influence and reduced visibility. Darkness also means depth perception is reduced, which can cause impaired judgment and delayed reflex actions.

How do our eyes work at night?

When you walk out of a brightly-lit place, such as your own living room, it can take up to 30 minutes before your eyes start working at even 80 per cent efficiency again. It can take double that for your night vision to be at its best. Approximately one in five adults has defective vision - from mild short-sightedness to night-blindness. Motorist who find night driving a severe strain on their eyes should consult a doctor or optician, and consider avoiding night driving all together.

Busy eyes see better

When you are driving at night, try not to focus at a single distance because this increases eye fatigue. Instead glance around at different distances and focus on objects on the edge of your headlight beam. A poorly-lit object is easiest to see if you focus slightly to one side of it - peripheral vision is less affected by poor light than central vision.

Reduce your speed

It goes without saying that you always should drive slower at night. A good rule of thumb is to never drive beyond your range of vision - that is, you should be able to stop under within the length of road illuminated by your headlights. Therefore, if you are driving with low or dipped beams you must reduce your speed commensurably. Following distances should also be increased, and the car ahead should be kept in the far limit of light from a dipped beam.

Don't blind other drivers

Always dip your headlights before an approaching car comes within range. If the other driver fails to realize you are approaching, flick the beam back to high for an instant before dipping it again. Do not keep the high beam on - having two blinded drivers instead of one just doubles the risk. When approaching a car traveling in the opposite direction on a right-hand bend, remember to dip the beam early. Otherwise it will sweep across the curve and blind the other driver. Conversely, on a left-hand turn your headlights shine away from approaching traffic. However, it is good road manners to always dip your lights when another motorist approaches.

Make sure your headlights point the right way

Headlights should be adjusted periodically, especially when your car is loaded more heavily than usual - this adjustment can be done at a garage. Having passengers in the back seat or heavy items in the boot can cause a dipped beam to shine too far ahead. This has the double disadvantage of dazzling oncoming drivers and failing to properly light the road. Always remember to reconfigure the beams when driving with a normal load again. Likewise, always adjust your tyre pressure before loading your car before holiday traveling.

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