Be a Bright Light when Night Driving

driving at night

Regardless of the season, whether it’s those short summer nights or those long winter ones, we spend a lot of our time driving in the dark, to drop off kids or pets, go to work, do chores, attend social or leisure activities, and just live our lives. Not everyone thinks about it, but driving at night is more challenging and hazardous, than by day.

At night, there’s little colour and contrast to help us see our world, and our depth perception and peripheral vision are reduced. These hazards are statistically confirmed by the U.S. National Safety Council, which found that traffic deaths are almost three times greater at night than during the day.

Use these tips to light up your night driving.

Use Your Headlights Well

  • Turn on your headlights before sunset and after sunrise, to help others see you. (Also, in gloomy conditions, turn on your headlights, so you’ll be seen from behind.)
  • Keep ’em clean – Dirty headlights can be up to 90 per cent less effective at illuminating the road ahead. Grime on headlights (or any of your other exterior lights) also makes it harder for others to see you. If your headlights look cloudy, hazy or aged use a headlight restoration kit to ensure your lights are a bright as possible.
  • Check their aim yearly – Correctly aligned headlights will help you see the road better and reduce glare for other drivers.
  • Fix a burnout quickly – Be sure that headlights and all exterior lights are working.
  • Use lowbeams or fog lights in fog – If your vehicle is equipped with fog lights or lamps, use them appropriately. If it isn’t foggy, don’t use them. If your vehicle has fog lights, fog is the only condition during which you should use them. If your vehicle does not have fog lights, use your low beams. High beams are less effective in foggy conditions and can blind other drivers for a few seconds, in foggy conditions.

Adjust Your Vehicle’s Interior

  • Keep your windows clean inside and out. Dirty windows can increase glare and make it more difficult to see.
  • Have a clear view – Take the time for fogged or frosted windows to clear, so you have full visibility before you start moving. Plan that into your travel time for appointments.
  • Flip your rear-view mirror to its “night” setting, to reduce glare from behind.
  • Dim your dashboard lights if streetlights are glaring, and avoid using any other interior light.

Eyes Spy the Road

  • Have your vision checked regularly – The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends periodic eye examinations, with the frequency based on your age.
  • Choose anti-reflective eyeglass coating – This ultra-thin film reduces internal reflections in the lenses and transmits more light to the eye than regular lenses. This helps with driving in both daytime and night-time.

get your eye exam for driving

Techniques for Taking on Night Driving

  • Avoid looking into oncoming headlights Instead, look toward the right side of the road, and the line marking the right edge of your lane.
  • Keep your eyes moving – Look for flashes of light at hilltops, curves and intersections that may indicate the headlights of other vehicles.
  • Focus on the road – Distracted driving is extra dangerous at night when your vision and your vehicle’s visibility are decreased. Distractions like using a handheld cell phone, looking at maps or selecting music are big no-no’s. Smoking is another distraction, plus the smoke interferes with your view.
  • Follow further behind – In the dark, it’s harder to tell how close another vehicle is or how fast it’s moving. Increasing your following distance makes it easier to spot trouble ahead and gives you more space and time to react.
  • Watch your speed – Because everything is less visible at night, driving too fast is even riskier after dark. You may not spot a hazard until you’re almost on it, and if you’re speeding you won’t have time to stop.
  • Stay tuned – Driving at night can be wearing and you may already be pooped to begin with. Be sure you’ve got good ventilation in your vehicle and take frequent breaks to revive yourself and your eyes. A walk, nap or refreshing (non-alcoholic) beverage can help keep you alert. If you nap, be sure to take a few minutes to wake up completely before continuing your travels.
  • Beware of driver fatigue – Ensure your driving position is ergonomic, shift your seating position occasionally, scan your entire driving environment to make sure your view is not monotonous, avoid sugary or caffeinated beverages and choose high-protein snacks over fatty foods.
  • Scan ahead – You might spot the reflective glow of animal eyes. If you see that, slow down as there may be a group of animals.
  • Illuminate at roadside – If you’ve got vehicle troubles, pull completely off the road, and turn on your vehicle’s emergency flashers and interior dome light.
no distracted driving
courtesy of ICBC

Day or night, using a cellphone while driving is never alright!

At night, it’s all about light. Follow these tips, and you’ll be a bright light when it comes to driving safely at night.

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Page 1 of 18 comments on “Be a Bright Light when Night Driving”

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  1. Fog lights are ok, it’s the ignorant people installing the HID ballast system lights in the stock headlight housings. It totally overwhelms other drivers and is apparently illegal to do, but the police seem to totally ignore it and it’s rapidly becoming the norm. Without the lenses and cutoff shields, these lights blast super bright light everywhere and I’m sure this irresponsible action has caused accidents.

  2. Ok this is so funny. Fog lights point down. But yet people say they will blind the car in tony of you or cars that are coming towards you. How can they blind someone when they are pointed to the road. They are not pointed up to even blind someone. I think this is the most ridiculous thing ever. There are cars that have bright driving lights that will blind me from which ever direction they come from and yet they are not an issue for blinding people. But yet fog lights are a problem when they point straight down to the ground. You people are idiots that think fog lights will blind you and are the issue here. I can’t believe what I’m reading here. Just a bunch of idiots that have no clue.

  3. what I find very hard is the cars and trucks that have the fog? or other lights aligned the same as their headlights it is the same as looking at a vehicle that has high beam especially these new LED lights on very blinding always thought fog lights were aimed down on the road to see it better not up and on all time

    • Agreed Marlene,

      Fog lights should be aligned so they point slightly down at the road in front of the car, not in line with the head lights. This is a ticketable offense by the BC RCMP. If you find you are having a hard time seeing due to bright oncoming lights, always turn your eyes down to the right side/edge of the road.

  4. Fining all the drivers for leaving their fog lights on during non-inclement weather (ie fog) , at roughly $109 per infraction would be a great fund raiser, could feed and clothe all the cold and hungry people of BC. The purpose of fog lamps is to light up the road immediately in front of your vehicle, so that you can see where you are going at very slow speeds. Once the fog clears, and you are going 50 or 80+ kph, you should be looking way beyond the area that fog lights illuminate. So find the fog light switch and turn them off when vehicles are approaching or if you are behind someone. Fogs can be quite blinding, similar to high beams in some applications (eg big pick-up with a load or pulling a trailer). Those drivers who feel the need to have their fogs on 24/7 should find a nice back road with no other traffic, and just leave them on.

    • Hi b stone. Please can you inform me how you are being blinded by fog lights? Because your story is contradicting. You say fog lights are to light up the road directly in front of you. Which is correct. But then you say that they are blinding people that are driving in front of you. You do know that fog lights are there to shine under fog. They only reach about 4 inches off the ground and that’s it. There is no way that fog light could ever blind someone. I have had people drive towards me with fog lights on and they do nothing. It’s the hid or led headlights that blind me. Should google how do fog lights work to see what you are missing there. Because there is no way fog lights can blind away if they point directly down to the ground.

      • Do you drive a truck or a car? In a car, the fog lights of some higher SUVs and trucks are directed at the eyes of car drivers. If it isn’t foggy, please don’t use them.

  5. Not just night. Was working on the highway in early morning half light with thick fog (at times 100m visibllity). Amazingly some drivers didn’t have ANY lights on and most only had their running lights on (hint – it is a good idea if people behind you can see you).

    • A colleague was asking drivers to turn on their lights before entering the snowsheds at Rogers Pass (lights were off and very narrow lanes due to construction). Some drivers had to pause to work out HOW to switch their lights on (‘they’re automatic’).

          • Hi Adam and thank you for your comments and observations.

            We suspect that because there are many types of auxiliary lights that can be added to a vehicle, many confuse those lights with fog lights (or lamps). Section 4.11 of the BC MVA regulations (see below) outlines where to mount them, how far forward they are to shine and the conditions in which fog lamps may be used.
            Fog lamps
            4.11(1) A motor vehicle may be equipped with 2 fog lamps, mounted on the front of the vehicle below the headlamps, that are capable of displaying only white or amber light.
            Each fog lamp must be
            (a) mounted not more than 30 cm below the headlamps, and
            (b) adjusted and aimed so that, at a distance of 8 m from the lamp, the centre of the beam is at least 10 cm below the height of the fog lamp.
            (3) The fog lamp wiring and switch must permit simultaneous operation of the parking lamps, tail lamps, licence plate lamp and, if required, clearance lamps.
            (4) The operator of a vehicle may use fog lamps instead of headlamps when atmospheric conditions make the use of headlamps disadvantageous.

            While we are responsible for creating the regulations in this legislation, only the BC RCMP is responsible for enforcing them. We have reviewed the language in our blog and adjusted it accordingly.

  6. I too am tired of being blinded by other drivers’ use of fog lights, as well as headlights, in clear visibility, and often even in clear daylight. It might be great for them to see better, but not for me, coming the other way. I just googled the use of fog lights, and have found two conflicting reports. One says they are legal anytime, and above it says that you can be ticketed for their incorrect use. It seems that it just became “A thing” a couple of years ago, and the idea is catching on, as more and more drivers are doing it. It’s not too bad when they are amber, but four LED white lights coming at you is definitely a hazard. I don’t get it, since most people are lazy. I would assume that this is why modern cars are fitted with an “Auto” setting, so that the headlights come on as required, and you don’t have to turn them on and off – so why then do all these people choose to turn on extra lights that they clearly don’t need? Weird.

    • Hi Kathy,

      We are not sure the source of the conflicting report you found but the use of fog lamps during good driving conditions can result in a fine enforceable by R.C.M.P. in BC.

      • Curious, but what section of the MVA or MVAR prohibits the use of fog lamps in good weather? How does that fit in with federal lamp legislation permitting fog lamps to be part of the daytime running light system?

        • Hi there,

          We spoke with our traffic engineers and they asked us to follow up with you on this. Current federal legislation allows for running lights to be optically connected with other types of lights (parking, tail lamps etc.). There is a proposed legislative change to the federal act that will allow one to be on while the other is off, is this your question?

  7. Im tired of being blinded at night by drivers who bully other motorists by failing to turn off their fog lights for on comming traffic. The law says that it is a ticketable offence to run fog lights without the presence of fog. Why with all the overhead information signs are drivers not being educated to this unenforced law. You would think people would show some common courtesy to other motorists.It appears the opposite these days with people installing illegal bulbs as well as multiple sets of lights and these new light bars with the intention of blinding oncoming traffic so they can look cool. Driving is a serious business why is law enforcement ignoring this problem. I have spoken to many police officers regarding being assaulted every night and seem to get a different response from each one. I suppose I could purchase a set of the brightest fog lights on the market and return a bright dazzling response to these yahoos. This appears to be my only option as authorities are doing nothing to educate these inconsiderate motorists.