10 top tips for safer night driving
Driving at night is challenging, even for drivers with lots of experience. You simply can’t see as well or judge situations that might come up as quickly as if you could during daylight hours. First of all, allow plenty of time for your journey so you're not driving under pressure, but once you’re on the road, here are some great tips to help you to be a safer driver in the dark…
1. Don’t drive if you’re feeling tired
Take regular breaks. Even if you’ve had a nap in the afternoon, your body and brain will naturally slow down at night so stop for a rest at least every two hours, if not more. And make sure you’re keeping your energy levels up with good food and water.
2. Use your headlights
Sounds dumb but you’ve probably seen people on the road driving without their headlights on. When it’s pitch black it’s really obvious you don’t have your lights on, but say your journey began at dusk or in an urban area that’s really well lit by streetlights; it’s easy to forget because you can still see. If you’re a good driver you’ll know the road code says your lights need to be on an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise.
Standard low beam will usually light your way for about 30m, high beam up to 100m, but that’s only to be used when driving stretches of road where you don’t encounter much other traffic. When someone’s approaching, or you’re following not too far behind, be sure to dip onto low beam.
And remember, your headlights not only help you see, they help you BE seen. Never drive with just your Park lights/Position light on. They should only be used when you are stationary.
3. Don’t stare at oncoming lights
Ever been outside on a sunny day then gone inside and felt like you’ve gone blind?! Your eyes adjust to the amount of light available and staring straight into the headlights of oncoming cars will make your pupils dilate. Then, when the light is gone, they take a while to adjust back to the darkness. Best practice is to keep your attention on the left-hand curb and try to keep your speed steady.
4. Move your eyes
That said, you do need to be more vigilant at night than during the day as things really can appear from “out of nowhere”! Scan your surroundings constantly looking for potential hazards and slow down when you’re approaching things like intersections or pedestrian crossings just in case! You might be a good driver but what about the other people on the road?
5. Study the road ahead
Look for glimmers of headlights at the top of hills and at bends as a pre-warning of oncoming traffic. And if there are cars ahead of you going in the same direction, watch how they are turning and moving with the road to alert you to any tricky bends or potential hazards.
Use the white and red plastic road markers as a guide. The left side of the road will always have a white reflector and the right hand side of the road is yellow/orange.
6. Increase the distance between you and other vehicles
A no-brainer, really. Extra space between you and the vehicle you’re following means a little bit of extra time to react to situations ahead of you. This also goes for beside you; give yourself an “escape route” all around your vehicle so if an emergency situation happens, you have somewhere to go. This means, if you’re on a multi-lane road, don’t just cruise along with another car beside you, try and fall back so that if you absolutely had to move to your left of right, you’re not going to hit another vehicle.
7. Keep windows, mirrors and lights clean
This will help avoid increased glare and condensation which all lead to better visibility at night.
8. Flip your rearview mirror down
When someone’s following and their lights shine in your mirror it’s super distracting. Use the wee snib underneath to angle the mirror down. You’ll still be able to see if someone is following you without being blinded. Side view mirrors can also experience the same issue so a small adjustment (done safely of course) can make all the difference. Just remember to readjust them next time you’re about to drive.
9. Dim the dash
If your car has the functionality, dim your dashboard lights so they’re not distracting while you’re looking out the windscreen.
10. Have your eyes checked
If you’re really struggling to see at night, book yourself in for an eye exam. Never wear dark or tinted lenses for night driving.