In 2020, US motorists drove 13% fewer miles than they did in 2019. Despite that, 4.8 million people still sustained car crash injuries. Worse, these incidents claimed the lives of over 42,000 individuals.
The thing is, most if not all those crashes were preventable. According to researchers, the majority (over 99%) of accidents are preventable.
That goes for night driving, too, as there are many ways to reduce your risks of nighttime crashes.
On that note, we created this guide on how to drive at night safely. Read on to discover the top night driving tips to keep yourself and other road users safe, even when it’s dark.
1. Acknowledge the Increased Danger of Night Driving
In 2019, more than half of traffic deaths in the US occurred between 6 PM and 6 AM. In hard numbers, that equates to a staggering 18,429 lives lost due to night driving accidents.
One reason behind the precarious nature of night driving is the change in how the eyes work in the dark. In dark environments, the eyes only or mostly see in black and white. This makes it harder to distinguish objects, and shadows further compound the issue.
The dark can also compromise the eye’s depth perception and peripheral vision. Moreover, the glare of oncoming vehicle headlights can cause temporary blindness.
So, no matter how sharp your eyesight is during the day, it can still experiences issues at night. For these reasons, you should never underestimate the exaggerated hazards of night driving. It may be even better if you overestimate the risks a bit so that you can motivate yourself to be more alert at night.
2. Keep Your Eyes in Tip-Top Condition
Speaking of eyesight, an estimated 12 million people in the US 40 years or older have impaired vision. This includes eight million who have uncorrected vision impairment.
Many eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and degeneration, have to do with age. Refractive errors can also be due to age, but they can affect people of all ages.
Some also experience night vision problems, usually due to an underlying eye condition. These include untreated cataracts and nearsightedness (myopia), to name a few. In rare cases, vitamin A deficiency can also contribute to night blindness.
All these eyesight woes can interfere with your driving abilities. That’s why it’s best to see an eye doctor at least once a year to have your vision checked and tested. You may have to wear special lenses to help you see better and drive more safely at night.
3. Become a Defensive Driving Expert
One of the key attributes of defensive driving is maintaining alertness at all times. It instills in you a constant reminder that other motorists may not be as safe and prudent as you are. It can help heighten your senses so you can better anticipate events around you.
So by being a defensive driver, you’re more likely to react quickly enough to avoid road risks. You can think of it as an innate road hazard warning system that’s always active. While you don’t have to be on edge (this can stress you out!), defensive driving keeps you vigilant.
For instance, defensive drivers can spot hazards like impaired drivers faster. As a result, defensive drivers can respond immediately by slowing their own cars down. Even a split-second decision on the road can be the difference between a life and death situation.
Defensive driving is something you usually master over the years with more practice. However, you can kickstart things by enrolling in a defensive driving course. This way, you’ll learn from a professional instructor in a supervised environment.
4. Put Your High Beams To Good Use
Your vehicle’s low beam headlights can illuminate up to about 160 feet of the road ahead. About 90% of drivers would react to a road obstruction within that distance within 2.5 seconds. By contrast, alert drivers could take about a second or even less to react.
The usefulness of that quick reaction still depends on how fast you’re going, though. The faster you’re driving, the more time and distance your car needs to stop. This also shortens the time you have to react to avoid road obstructions.
For that reason, be sure to use your high beams whenever you can’t see enough of the road ahead. This includes driving on rural and sparsely illuminated roads. High beams let you see 350 to 400 feet of the road ahead, giving you more time to react promptly to obstructions.
Be careful when you switch your high beam headlights on, though, as they’re so bright they can be blinding. Each state also has strict regulations on when to dim them if there are oncoming vehicles. Most states also prohibit their use within 200 to 300 feet of another vehicle in front.
5. Take Your Time
In 2019, speeding contributed to 26% of all traffic deaths in the US. In many cases, speeding involves going beyond the maximum speed limit. However, it also includes driving too fast for road conditions, such as at night.
Always keep in mind that speed affects your reaction times. The faster you go, the greater the consequences of the delayed reaction time. All those should be good enough reasons to go slow, especially if driving on a highway at night.
6. Keep Your Windshield and Exterior Lights Clean
Dirt and debris on your windshield are distractions and obstructions themselves. These tiny particles can make light scatter, further intensifying the effects of glare. Dirty windshields are also more prone to fogging both on the internal and external sides.
Off-gassing within a car also creates an oily film on the windshield’s interior side. This phenomenon can create streaks on the glass, resulting in even more glare.
Filth and residue on lights can also cause a drop in their brightness and efficiency. Moreover, large splotches of dirt on the headlights can create distracting shadows. Taillights covered with mud can also reduce your vehicle’s conspicuity from behind.
As such, dirty windshields and lights can impair night driving safety. To prevent this from happening, give your windshield and lights a thorough wipe down. Don’t forget to clean your wipers, too, as they can create even more muddy streaks on the glass.
7. Don’t Let Drowsiness and Fatigue Take Over
In 2017 alone, an estimated 91,000 crashes involved drowsy drivers. Some 50,000 individuals sustained injuries due to these incidents. What’s even worse is that drowsy driving kills hundreds of people each year.
Drowsy driving accidents are most likely to occur late at night, as this is when the body should be at rest. If you can’t avoid driving at night, then you definitely need to learn how to stay awake at the wheel. One way to do this is to get some caffeine into your system to stimulate your senses.
If you don’t drink coffee, try letting some fresh air in by rolling your windows down from time to time. You can also take frequent breaks by pulling over into a safe area of the road. Playing some music or listening to late-night radio may also help.
If you’re still a long way from home, but sleepiness is setting in, don’t force yourself to keep driving. See if there’s any nearby motel, inn, or 24-hour coffee shop where you can rest.
8. Either You Drink or Don’t Drive at All
Driving under the influence is one of the deadliest, most dangerous driving habits. Impaired driving causes one in every three traffic deaths. Those who survive often find themselves in jail while also facing hefty fines.
If you have plans of drinking, don’t slip behind the wheel anymore. Intoxicating substances magnify impaired night driving conditions. Alcohol can lead to slower reflexes, so you might find it harder to make swift decisions.
If you need to go home after having a few drinks, have someone else who isn’t impaired drive you home. You can also leave your ride with a person you can trust and take a cab home.
9. Stay Up-to-Date of Your Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
Vehicle malfunctions, like defective tires and brake pads, raise your risks of accidents. It can happen any time of the day, but night driving conditions can make it worse.
For example, driving at night can make it more difficult to see road debris. Driving over debris can then puncture your worn tires.
That can cause your tires to blow out and make your car difficult to control. Loss of control can make your vehicle swerve or even rollover.
As such, night driving requires even more careful adherence to vehicle maintenance schedules. Inflate your tires with proper pressure, and get your worn brakes replaced ASAP. Have dim lights inspected and readjusted, too.
Master These Safety Techniques on How To Drive at Night
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to drive more safely, even in low-light conditions. From using your high beams to going slow and maintaining your car, all these can help keep night crashes at bay. A professional defensive driving instructor can also teach you how to drive at night.
Interested in learning more about accredited driving courses near you? Then please feel free to check out our extensive directory of driving schools! You can also read our unbiased reviews to learn more about these institutions.