Night Driving Tips

October 27, 2014

As the baby-boomers move beyond 65-years-of-age, more and more opt not to drive at night. In addition to senior drivers, a significant number of drivers from other age groups find night-time driving challenging. Studies have shown that new drivers, for example, are more likely to crash in the hours between midnight and 6am; consequently, most graduated licencing programs prohibit new drivers from operating a vehicle during these hours.

At night, drivers lose approximately one-half of their visual acuity, which is significant considering we gather 80-90% of the information required to drive. Although our traffic management system has implemented aids to make night driving safer, such as street lights, reflective signs and road markings, and light-emitting diode (LED) traffic lights, there are still three times more traffic deaths that occur at night than during the daytime.

As well, fatigue, alcohol and distractions contribute significantly to nighttime crashes. There are several precautions and techniques that you can implement to make your night driving safer.

Pre-Trip Inspection

First and foremost, inspect your vehicle to ensure that all your vehicle lights are working properly. Seeing and being seen are the keys to a safe nocturnal commute.

Keep your eyes moving

Look for flashes of light at hilltops, through trees when entering curves, and at intersections, which may indicate the headlights of other vehicles are approaching.

Avoid glare

Do not look directly at oncoming headlights, rather look toward the right side of the road and use the white fog line as a guide. When headlights from vehicles following you reflect in your rearview mirror, use the “day-night” feature on the mirror or adjust your mirror to reduce distracting light.

Keep all windows and headlights clean

Dirty windows increase glare, making it more difficult to see. Clean the inside and outside of your windshield. Dirty headlights potentially reduce efficiency by as much as 90%; therefore, use a rag or squeegee to clean the headlights.

At all cost, refrain from flashing your high beams at other vehicles that fail to cancel their high beams – this manoeuvre is dangerous and puts both you and other road users at risk. When this occurs—and it will—look at the fog line on the right side of the road intermittently until the other vehicle passes.

In fog, use low beam headlights: high beams reduce your own ability to see and may temporarily blind other drivers. If your vehicle is equipped with fog lamps, use them with your low beams during inclement weather.

Adjust your vehicle’s interior lighting

If streetlights causes excess glare, dim your dashboard lights. Avoid using other interior lights.

Regulate speed

Driving too fast is dangerous anytime, but more so at night. Traveling at high speeds causes you to overdrive your headlights, and this dangerous speed doesn’t allow you enough time or distance to react or stop when a potential hazard appears on the road ahead.

Correctly adjust vehicle mirrors

Exterior mirrors that are properly aligned reduce both blind spots and glare from vehicles behind you. The outside rearview mirrors should be adjusted during the day so that a small amount of the vehicle can be seen on the inside of the mirror and the horizon is in the middle of the mirror. At night subsequently, these correctly adjusted mirrors will reduce glare.

In addition, the inside rearview mirror can be adjusted to its “night” setting using the small tab, which changes the angle of the reflective surface and appears to dim light reflected in the mirror from following vehicles.

Driving at night requires additional skills that can be learned and practiced. Nighttime drivers are often fatigued which deteriorates both judgment and driving skills. Keep all glass clean, and stop for an exercise break if you feel the least bit drowsy. Stop and find a place to sleep if you feel that you are too tired and cannot continue safely.

On roads that are not well lit, use your high beam headlights whenever possible, and attempt to look beyond the scope of the lights for animals and other obstacles on the road.

Most important, take note of the road signs and slow down to the advisory speed limits on curves and hills – increase your following distance when other traffic is present.

Driving at night, no doubt poses greater risks; however, with preparation, care and due diligence the dangers associated with night driving can be mitigated.


(Photo by Tamaki SonoCC BY)