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10 tips for driving at night

April 2nd, 2024  |  Auto

On the road when it’s dark? That’s a time to exercise extra caution.

Studies show that people on the road between dusk and dawn are three times more likely to be involved in a severe accident. And while we do only one quarter of our driving at night, 50 per cent of traffic deaths happen during that time.

When it’s dark, perception, colour recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can temporarily blind a driver. In addition, weather conditions such as snow or rain can make visibility even more difficult. Here are some tips that will help make your trip safer:

  1. Don’t drive when you’re tired.

Fatigue can kill. A poll done in the U.S. by the National Sleep Foundation found 60 per cent of adults have driven while tired and 37 per cent had fallen asleep at the wheel. Of those, 13 per cent said they had fallen asleep while driving once a month and four per cent said they had caused a crash. A Traffic Injury Research Foundation report cites that 26 per cent of all fatal and injury crashes are estimated to be related to fatigued driving. If you’re tired the best option is not to drive, especially if you’ve been awake 16 hours or more. Stop every two hours to rest when driving long distances and pull over and take a nap if you’re drowsy. Whether it’s just a couple of hours to recharge or a full night’s sleep, don’t be afraid to give yourself the time you need. Drowsy driving puts everybody at risk.

2. Try to steer clear of two-lane highways

So you’re driving down a two-lane highway at night, not another car in sight. Suddenly, you go around a turn and are blinded by a pair of high beams. That’s the risk that comes with driving on two-lane highways at night. If possible, try to avoid the glare from oncoming headlights by sticking to roads with multiple lanes. You can minimize the blinding effect by moving over to the right-hand lane.

3. Clean your windshield and mirrors

Visibility is a huge part of safety when driving at night. The better you can see, the safer you’ll be. This means ensuring your windshield and mirrors are not damaged or covered with bugs, salt and grease. A dirty windshield scatters light and worsens the effects of glare. Purchase a new set of windshield wipers if the current set requires a replacement. Your wipers should be changed about every six to eight months because they accumulate grime that spreads onto your windshield.

4. Modify interior car lights

Light sources inside your vehicle can create a distraction as your eyes move between the road and the dashboard. To counteract this, keep unnecessary interior lights off and dim the brightness of your display lights and entertainment systems. You should still be able to see features like your speedometer without risking distraction from excessive light.

5. Adjust your headlights

Headlights are mandatory even in urban areas. Turn on your headlights 30 minutes before sunset and sunrise. If your vehicle has the capability, use the auto feature so you don’t forget. For added light, use fog lights even when it’s not foggy. They have a broader spread of light compared to low beams. The protective plastic on your headlights should also be kept clean and the bulbs should all be in working order. The angle your headlights are facing also matters. Too low and you won’t be able to see what’s ahead, but too high and you risk impairing the vision of oncoming drivers. If you aren’t able to adjust your headlights on your own, a dealership or auto shop can help.

6. Use high beams carefully

Properly functioning high beams dramatically improve visibility. If fact, they increase your view to 500 feet compared to standard lights which are 250 feet. But their use should be reserved for country roads where you’re unlikely to see to many other vehicles. The power of these brighter lights can easily blind drivers coming in the opposite direction at close and medium range, so be sure to switch to low beams when you see vehicles approaching.

7. Minimize glare from other vehicles

To minimize the glare from oncoming traffic, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation recommends looking “up and beyond slightly to the right of oncoming traffic.” Use the rearview mirror anti-glare feature to reduce the glare from cars behind you.

8. Watch for wildlife

Collisions with deer often happen at dusk or at night and are more common from October to January. Be extra cautious when you see deer crossing signs. Your headlights can help you spot the animal’s glowing eyes. When you see them, the safest way to avoid an accident is by slowing down and stopping – not by swerving.

9. Wear the right glasses

If you wear corrective lenses, make sure your prescription is up to date. An anti-reflective coating on the lenses will help reduce glare. If you have poor night vision, avoid driving at night.

10. Slow down!

Speeding-related crashes account for 37 per cent of driving fatalities at night, says the NHTSA, compared with 21 per cent of those during the day. When you consider reduced visibility and an increased likelihood of encountering drivers who aren’t giving the road their full attention, it’s easy to understand why you should reduce your speed. It’s the best way to ensure you have as much time as possible to react to the unexpected including pedestrians, animals and other drivers. Be extra mindful if road conditions are wet or icy and leave enough room between you and other vehicles.


Distracted driving can be deadly

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