Driving at night with reduced visibility adds a level of difficulty many drivers don’t experience during the daylight hours. According to the National Safety Council, more than 40% of all collisions happen at night and traffic death rates are three times greater at night then during the day.
Drivers’ depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision are all severely comprised after sundown. Limited vision in turn affects the driver’s reaction, since 90% of a driver’s reaction is dependent on vision. Drivers at night are less likely to be able to see or respond in time to hazards, lowering the chance of being able to avoid a crash. A large portion of nighttime crashes are single-vehicle, run-off-the-road type crashes that may be caused by the driver’s inability to recognize delineation, guidance, or warning information.
The following are nighttime hazards you should be aware of, categorized by the three main factors of night driving: the driver, the vehicle and the roadway.
Vision – Since people can’t see as well in the dark, you should allow yourself at least two minutes for your eyes to adjust from bright indoor lights to the dark light you’ll be driving in.
Glare – Drivers can be blinded by the headlights of oncoming traffic, which can cause driving issues. To avoid this, look at the right side of the road to avoid temporary blindness when a vehicle passes you at night.
Fatigue – Drivers tend to be less alert at night and drowsiness can increase driving difficulty by limiting concentration and slowing down your reaction time. The solution for this is simple: If you’re feeling tired behind the wheel, pull over and get some sleep. Don’t risk your life and the life of others due to being tired on the road.
Lighting – Driver’s operating a CMV must be driving slow enough to be able to come to a stop if a hazard was to appear in the roadway. At night this means that you must reduce your speed enough to be able to stop within the distance your headlights can illuminate. If you’re driving faster than this, it’s known as “over driving the headlights.” At night CMV headlights shine about 250ft for low beams and 350ft to 500ft for high beams.
Drivers under the influence – Be especially alert during the times when bars are closing. You should be on the look-out for drivers who can’t stay in their own lane or maintain a constant speed.
Headlights – You should never drive over you headlights or too fast for your headlight coverage. When doing your pre-trip inspection make sure your headlights are clean. A dirty headlight can cut the amount of light it produces in half, which will affect not only your visibility but the speed you can drive safely at.
Other lights – For you to be able to be seen properly on the road, the following devices need to be clean and in good working order:
- Marker lights
- Clearance lights
- Tail lights
- Identification lights
- Turn signals
- Brake lights
Windshield and mirrors – Always clean your windshield and mirrors before you drive at night. Oncoming lights can enhance the glare due to the dirt on your windshield or mirrors, which can comprise your view.
Safe Driving Tips:
Before leaving, prepare your vehicle by keeping all your lights and windows clean.
Turn your headlights on and make sure they’re properly aimed. Mis-aimed headlights can blind other drivers and make it harder for you to see the road.
Give yourself some extra room between you and your fellow drivers. Reduce your speed and always keep your headlights on low beams when you’re following another vehicle.
Use the right side of the road as a steering guide when an oncoming vehicle doesn’t lower their beams.
If you’re feeling tired on the road, take a break for a snack or some exercise. If you’re too tired to properly drive, stop and get the rest you need before continuing.
When experiencing vehicle trouble, make sure to pull off the road as far as possible and warn approaching traffic by setting up reflecting triangles near your vehicle and 300ft behind it. You should also turn on flashers and the dome light.