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.
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.
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.