There are two types of people when it comes to driving at night. The first group finds that it worries them, and they become more anxious about it. They might even try to avoid driving in the dark completely which might be possible in the summer months, but during the winter it can be very difficult indeed.
The second group of people are the ones who don’t feel there is a difference between driving at night and driving during the day. They drive in the same way no matter what the conditions are, confident in their abilities.
So which is better?
The answer is that neither is a good way to be. Being anxious about getting behind the wheel and being more nervous on the roads is not good because it can mean you hesitate more and don’t trust your instincts so much, which can lead to accidents. Being over-confident and not paying attention to the conditions you are driving in is just as dangerous since you can easily be involved with (or even cause) an accident due to carelessness.
The key to safe driving at night is to realize that there is a big difference between the way that you need to drive at this time and how you would drive on a clear day. Once you understand this and adapt your driving accordingly, you will be much safer and much happier. Here are some of the ways you can do it.
Driving at night means, of course, that you are driving in the dark, and that means that your vision is limited, even if you don’t realize it. When you can’t see as far or as well as you usually can, you need to pay a lot of attention to the road and anticipate what might be coming up ahead. Slow down when reaching bends in the road, for example; another car might be heading your way. You should also be aware that on dark roads, there could be animals or even people walking. If you assume that they are there and drive more cautiously (although not nervously or anxiously, as this can cause accidents too), then you will be a lot safer.
The point is to look about you as much as possible. In the daytime, obstacles might be easier to spot sooner, whereas at night if you’re not paying enough attention, you might find out too late that there was an issue with the road.
Know How The Car Works
During the daytime you won’t necessarily need to use your headlamps (unless it’s a dark, rainy day). You certainly won’t need to use your high beams. This can lead to problems if you rarely drive at night, or if you have only just bought the car and you don’t know how to operate the lights. You might end up blinding other drivers, or not being able to see far enough in front of you. You might even do something illegal if you really can’t work out how to switch the lights on.
Before you start on your journey, make sure you know how to ensure you can drive with the right level of lighting at night. This is especially important if you are starting your journey in daylight but expect to complete it when it is dark as you will need to switch the lights on partway through the trip. The best way to learn about this is to read the owner’s manual rather than experimenting with all the buttons and levers inside the car. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might cause yourself additional problems.
Not only should you know how to switch your headlamps on (and how to make them lighter or duller, depending on the circumstances), you should also learn how to operate the cabin lights of your car. Although driving with these on is not something you should do, you may need them if you stop in an emergency.
Check Your Headlamps
Even if you know exactly how to switch your headlamps on, or they are automatic and come on when the car senses it is getting dark, which is often the case in new cars such as the Suzuki Vitara, for example, have you really looked at them? Do you know what they look like when they are on? If not, it is worth switching them on and standing at the front of your car to check them.
The first thing to note is whether both sides are working. It could be that a bulb has blown in one lamp, and you haven’t realized. Secondly, are the lights shining equally? If not, again, it may be time to replace the bulbs with new ones that come from the same batch. Also check that they are pointing in the right direction, and finally, make sure that you wipe the plastic covers for the lights. When they are dirty, which happens quickly during the winter due to the mud and grime on the roads, they can obscure the lights and make them not shine quite as brightly as they should do.
When Do You Use High Beams?
High beams are not something that should be used all the time when driving at night because they will cause more problems than they solve in this way. High beams are strictly for use when there is little or no other street lighting because they light up the road farther ahead, just like streetlamps would normally do.
Although high beams are extremely useful in a situation like this, you must be prepared to switch them off (and therefore lower your visibility levels) for short periods when other cars are coming towards you, or when there is a car ahead of you. If you don’t, you will be blinding the other drivers and making the road more dangerous as a result. If someone has their high beams on coming towards you and you can’t see, trying flashing your headlamps at them to remind them to switch them off.
You should always drive to the road conditions, but that doesn’t just mean driving correctly for the weather; it also means driving correctly for the lighting too. As mentioned above, since it is dark obstructions and problems in the road can be harder to see, driving more slowly will give you more chance to react in the right way instead of panicking or not being able to do anything at all.
An example of this is road signs. Although they are made to be reflective and therefore seen at night, they can still be hard to read when it is dark, so driving more slowly and reading them properly can prevent accidents or stop you doing something that could result in a ticket.
Be Aware Of Other Motorists
Sometimes it isn’t anything you do or don’t do that could cause an accident, but rather what other drivers do or don’t do. Some people prefer driving at night because of this, as there are fewer drivers on the road and therefore less chance of meeting someone who isn’t driving properly. However, it is essential to bear in mind the fact that even if there are fewer drivers on the smaller roads, there is more chance that they could be under the influence of drink or drugs, and therefore are more dangerous.
It is always essential that you pay attention to what other drivers are doing, and if you feel that someone on the road is driving dangerously, you should pull over and let them pass and generally move out of their way. If you are really concerned, then make a note of their license plate number and contact the police who might be able to stop them before they cause an accident.
The most important thing to do is stay away from anyone driving erratically; they could be endangering you and those in the vehicle with you.
Don’t Drive Tired
Driving at night can be dangerous for all kinds of reasons, but one of the biggest is driver fatigue. If you are feeling tired, then you shouldn’t get behind the wheel until you are sufficiently rested. If this means taking a nap beforehand or waiting until the next day to make your journey, then this is what will need to be done in order to be safe.
If you start to feel tired when you are already driving, you must stop at a safe place such as a motel or rest stop until you feel ready to continue. Alternatively, having someone with you in the car is a good idea. Even if they can’t drive, they can talk to you and make sure you stay awake. One method people often use is driving with the window down, but this is not a replacement for getting enough rest and not being tired.
Driving when tired is just as dangerous as driving when drunk or under the influence of drugs as reaction times can be slowed down a considerable amount and you might even close your eyes when driving.