Whether commuting, visiting friends and family, or taking a road trip, help keep yourself and your loved ones safe while driving at night this winter – take heed of these seven important safety tips:
1. Stay alert
With the end of Daylight Saving Time just around the corner, it’s extra important to take even more precaution when driving, and that includes staying alert every time you get behind the wheel.
According to studies, this time change is associated with an increase in accidents. And while the spring time change is linked to an increase in fatal auto collisions, the fall time change has been linked to an increase in pedestrian fatalities.
When the clocks “fall back” this year, make sure you stay extra alert as you’re driving in the early morning or at dusk, when there’s less sunlight as pedestrians are crossing the roads.
2. Avoid rush hour
Rush hour is an unfortunate necessity for most urban cities, as drivers eager to get home from work crowd the roadways between the hours of 4 -7 p.m. Monday to Friday. During the fall and winter months, the dangers of rush hours increase, as most people will be making this commute in the dark.
If it’s possible and your work schedule allows it, try to avoid leaving work during rush hour – if you can’t avoid it, make sure to slow down, stay in your lane, and be alert to other drivers and pedestrians around you.
3. Use your headlights
When it comes to driving at night, it’s all about the headlights! That’s what they’re made for after all – to help illuminate the roadway in front of you in the dark.
During the darker winter months, make sure to put your headlights to good use – turn them on about an hour before dusk so that you can safely navigate the tricky time during and right after sunset. This also makes you visible to other drivers around you.
What’s more, make sure that your headlights are aimed correctly. Even in new cars, the headlights are sometimes uneven, or are aiming lower than they need to be. Follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to properly aim your headlights – you’ll want to be patient as you’re doing this, since it might take a few tries until you aim them just right.
4. Dim your dash lights
After you’ve turned on the exterior lights of your car, you’ll want to dim those in your car’s interior – namely, your dash lights.
The bright lights on your dashboard and infotainment screen can be distracting as you’re driving in the dark, and cause reflections on your windshield – which takes your eyes away from where they should be, the road.
Find your dashboard dimmer switch and dim the lights on your dash and instrument panel. This will eliminate any distracting reflections and help your eyes better adjust to the road in front of you.
5. Watch for animals
Fall is peak season for wildlife-vehicle collisions, specifically from October through January, which is mating season for moose and deer. This is also the time of year with the least daylight and the longest nights.
With darkness being a major factor in collisions with wildlife – the peak time of day for wild animal-vehicle collisions is between 7 p.m. and midnight – it’s extra important to keep a close watch for animals when driving at night, especially if you live in a rural area.
One trick to spot animals in your path is to watch for your headlights reflected in their eyes. Watch out for that telltale pair of shining, bright spots, which mean an animal is near.
6. Drive defensively
As always, your first line of defense against on-road accidents is to follow those all-important rules that make for a good driver – that is, to drive defensively, which includes:
- Keeping a safe distance (use the two second rule)
- Slowing down – especially in adverse conditions
- Avoiding distracted driving
- Never driving under the influence
- Being rested, awake, and alert
- Paying attention to your surroundings
- Adapting to road conditions
Following these guidelines is an easy way to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe while navigating dark nighttime roads.
7. Get your vision checked regularly
At night, it’s even more important that your vision is in optimal condition. If you need to do so, always wear glasses or contacts when driving, especially at night. What’s more, make sure you get your eyes checked regularly – every one or two years. If your glasses prescription has changed, make sure to get new glasses with the right prescription lenses – because bright headlights and spotless windshields won’t do much good if you’re straining your eyes just to see the road in front of you.
Driving at Night: How to be Safe
With fall in full swing; shorter days, longer nights, and cooler weather means many drivers are no longer commuting to and from work in the sunshine. Rather, those drivers are forced to commute in the dark – and that means a few extra driving hazards.