Have you ever felt nervous about driving at night? If so, you have good reason to be more cautious after dark. According to data from the National Safety Council, over 55% of fatal crashes happen between 4 p.m. and 4 a.m.
The safest way to drive at night is to avoid it completely, but that’s not realistic for most drivers. Brush up on these nighttime defensive driving tips before your next trip at night.
1. Slow Down
Just like driving in the rain, you should plan to go slower when you drive at night. The dim lighting can often mess with your depth perception. Even if you have great eyesight, poor lighting can make objects or road hazards less clear.
Slowing down should help give you the time you need to avoid unexpected hazards on the road, from potholes to wildlife.
2. Avoid Drowsy Driving
Driving when you’re tired could increase your chance of causing an accident. Depending on how much sleep you need, driving drowsy could be similar to driving under the influence of alcohol. Try to avoid driving at times when you’re likely to feel sleepy, such as late at night or after a long day.
Some modern cars even have safety alerts built into their systems to help alert you if you’ve been driving a long time or take your eyes off the road. This technology could help you stay alert if you have to drive when you’re tired.
3. Make Sure Your Lights Work
Proper lighting is key to defensive driving at night. Without bright headlights and taillights, you put yourself and other drivers at risk. Not only do headlights help you see the road in front of you, but exterior lighting helps others see you at night.
Before you hit the road for a long trip or a nighttime drive, take a look at all of your exterior lights. Be sure to check your headlights low and high beams so you know all the bulbs are in good working order. You should also check your brake lights and turn signals so other drivers can see when you’re about to slow down, stop or make a turn.
Check the angle of your headlights as part of your inspection. They should not be tilted too far up or down. Too far up, and you might be accidentally blinding other drivers. If they’re too far down, you’ll have a smaller line of sight when driving at night. You can take your car to a reputable repair shop for a quick inspection and fix any angling issues.
4. Use Your High Beams
High beams are a great tool to increase your range of vision at night. They’re especially useful on rural roads or quiet highways where there’s an increased chance of wildlife crossing the road.
Make sure you know how to safely use your high beams before turning them on, however. You should avoid using your high beams if you’re following another vehicle or within 500 feet of oncoming traffic. Leaving your high beams on in these situations can make it difficult for other drivers to see by temporarily blinding them with direct beams. If someone is driving from behind you with bright headlights, most rear-view mirrors allow you to flip the mirror up so the headlights won’t be in your direct line of vision. Some cars may have a switch to automatically dim your rear-view mirrors as it gets darker outside to help you see the traffic behind you better.
5. Dim Your Interior Lights
Having lights on the dashboard or your instrument panel makes it easier to see your radio, speedometer or warning lights when driving at night. However, interior lights that are too bright can cause you to potentially become disoriented when you glance at the dash or check your speed.
You can avoid this simply by keeping your interior lights dimmed down during the night. Most modern cars have an auto-dim feature that lowers the interior lighting when the headlights are on.
6. Clean Your Windshield
Keep the interior and exterior of your windshield clean for a clearer view. What might be a minor annoyance during the day could be a potential hazard at night. Dust, for example, often builds up on the inside of a vehicle. In the daylight, it might cause a smudged look. At nighttime, this dust could cause large blind spots when oncoming headlights or streetlights hit your windshield just right. This can also be caused by cracks, dings and streaks on the exterior of your windshield.
Keep your windshield clean for a safer driver experience at night and during the day. Consider wiping down the exterior of your windshield each time you fill up the tank. Almost all gas stations have self-serve window cleaning tools for you to use. You can also plan for a quick wipe on the inside of your windshield with a paper towel to cut down on dust buildup.
7. Know Where to Look
You’re supposed to keep your eyes on the road. At night, however, it’s best to avoid staring into one spot. Focusing too much on one section of the road could make you feel sleepy.
You also want to avoid being blinded by oncoming traffic. As you approach another vehicle, you could safely look slightly down and to the right of the road. Using the lines on the edge of the road to help you keep your car going in the right direction.
8. Be on High Alert
One of the most important aspects of defensive driving is staying focused. This is even more important at night. Low light makes it difficult to see past your headlights. Nighttime is also when many animals tend to be more active. By staying alert and watching for potential dangers, you could help avoid an accident.
Stay Safe While Driving at Night
Following good defensive driving habits at night helps keep you and other drivers safe on the road. Not only will you likely lower your chances of an accident, but nighttime defensive driving could also potentially help you earn a good driver discount on your car insurance. Get in touch with your Wawanesa agent today to learn how a defensive driving and a clean record could help you save on insurance.