Safe driving in the dark is difficult but achievable so long as the driver is prepared in advance and ready to follow a few rules.
Safe driving in the dark: is it possible at all?
Some drivers adore driving at night. They claim it’s much safer when it’s dark. Why is that so? First of all, there are fewer cars on the road. The drivers you will actually see at night also tend to be more experienced, so they are less likely to act in a way you wouldn’t be able to foresee (unlike those less experienced drivers you share the road with during the day). As a result, you are less likely to encounter dangerous situations.
There are just as many drivers who claim there is no such thing as safe driving in the dark, though. You can see much less when it’s dark, to begin with. Outside the city, where there are no street lights, our eyes can usually see only as far as the car lights are able to reach. It is thus much more difficult to not hit a pedestrian or an animal suddenly appearing on the road. Night is also more welcoming for drivers who are drunk, drugged or young and reckless. Your reaction time is also longer than during the day: at night, you will simply be more tired and your decisions won’t be as good as they could be in the morning. You may actually even fall asleep while driving; if this happens, an accident is almost guaranteed.
Whichever group of the drivers you belong to does not matter, though, when the situation forces you to drive at night. You might be going on holidays by car. It is difficult to reach Italy or Croatia if you’re only driving during the day, especially if there are kids in the back seat. You will need to take breaks too often to travel the distance in one day. You may also be forced to drive in the dark if you’re coming back from a party. Whatever your opinion on driving in the dark, chances are that at least from time to time you will need to do this anyway. Because of this, we believe everyone should know how to do it safely. As usual, preparation is the key here.
Safe driving in the dark: preparations for the driver
If you regularly drive in the dark, you should have your eyesight examined, especially if you feel it’s getting worse or you notice any other symptoms that are making you worried. Perhaps you should wear glasses while driving? If so, you should consider investing in glasses with anti-reflective coating. Be aware of this, too: while you may be advised to wear glasses, you may also be advised to not drive after dark at all. This will happen if you are diagnosed with binocular vision.
Safe driving in the dark doesn’t depend on your eyesight only; you should also prepare yourself. If you know you will have to drive in the dark, have some sleep in the afternoon; if you can’t, then at least make sure you get enough sleep the night before. Do some shopping, too; it is good to have some caffeine sweets or canned ice coffee at hand. If you know you’ll be driving alone, make sure you have something to enjoy while driving: prepare some music, fun audiobooks or podcasts you can listen to. If you know you will have company, ask the passengers to talk to you or read you something; a newspaper or online articles will do so long as you can discuss them later.
Safe driving in the dark: preparing the car
Just like yourself, your car needs preparation in advance; there are things you need to do well ahead of time and those which need to be done right before you get in the car. As for the first ones, make sure your car has the right bulbs. If you don’t know what type of bulbs you need, check your car’s manual; if you don’t have it, you can probably find it online. Make sure the lamps are clean on the inside and set at the right angle. You should also check if wiper blades are in good condition. If they spread the dirt across the windshield instead of wiping it clean, you won’t be able to drive safely, especially in the dark.
Right before setting off you should also clean the lamps on the outside so the light reaches as far as it should. If you have an auto-dimming mirror, turn on the night setting. If you don’t, you can make an ordinary mirror better suited for driving at night by setting it a bit higher than usual. This will prevent the lights of other cars following yours from blinding you. You can also dim the lights on your dashboard a little and choose the night setting of your GPS device. If your car has such options available, you can readjust the position of lights depending on how heavy the back of your car is. The heavier the back, the higher the front goes so the lights should be lowered.
Safe driving in the dark: how to drive
Preparations may be crucial but they won’t help if you don’t pay enough attention to driving. You can only drive safely if you know how to make the best of what you have prepared. First of all, never ignore sleepiness and try to react to its symptoms as soon as you notice them. Try the energy drinks, music, audiobooks, podcasts, or discussions with the passengers we have already mentioned. Don’t hesitate if you have a chance to stop for a moment and take a break or drink coffee. If you feel too sleepy, do stop at the nearest car park so you can take a short nap. It is better to arrive an hour late than not get to your destination at all.
While driving, try to avoid looking in the lights of the cars passing you by. If need be, look away. Remember to not blind other drivers by unnecessary use of high beam headlights. If they cannot drive safely, neither can you!
Safe driving in the dark: the controversy
Speed is one of the most controversial topics when it comes to driving in the dark. The internet is full of people boasting about the adrenaline rush that helps them fight sleepiness when they start speeding as soon as they drive outside the city limits. Don’t follow their advice. When it comes to driving at night, the slower you go, the better. Remember: since you have limited visibility, you also have less time to react to anything that happens on the road. Don’t shorten it any further by speeding. You should also remember that even if you drive slower than during the day, you will drive the same distance quicker than during the day because there will hardly be any traffic that could slow you down.