Driving at night adds another level of difficulty to the normal challenges of driving safely. And this added difficulty can have tragic consequences. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the fatality rate per mile of travel is about three times higher at night than during the day.
But there are things you can do to drive more safely after dark. Here are five tips for driving at night.
5 Tips for Driving at Night
1. Stay Awake
Staying awake while driving sounds like a no-brainer. But it’s easier said than done, particularly when driving in the dark. A survey of nearly 150,000 adults, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that one in 25 adults admitted to falling asleep while driving at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey. This is obviously incredibly dangerous for the drivers, their passengers, and every other car sharing the road.
Driving at night is also more likely to result in “drowsy driving” accidents. In 2017, there were 91,000 crashes caused by drowsy drivers, which led to about 50,000 injured people, according to the NHTSA.
So how do you stay awake while driving in the dark? Here are a few things you can do:
Get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel.
Stop regularly to stretch and get your blood pumping on long drives.
Keep the temperature on the cool side so you don’t get too warm and cozy while driving.
Avoid medications that can make you drowsy when you need to drive.
Never drink and drive!
2. Stay Alert
Of course, it isn’t enough to stay awake and non-drowsy. Driving at night also requires you to be extra vigilant. The simple fact is that it’s harder to see at night. So it’s extra important to avoid distractions like cell phones, eating, or heated discussions with, or between, passengers when driving in the dark.
You also need to pay extra attention to pedestrians who may be harder to see at night. And watch for animals; deer can come out of nowhere and cause serious damage, injuries, and even fatalities. Deer crashes are most common an hour after sunset and around sunrise, but they can happen at any time.
Staying alert also means defensive driving. Defensive driving is when you take the improper actions of others into account in your driving behaviors. For example, you should look both ways at intersections even when you have the right-of-way because someone else could run a red light or blow a stop sign.
If you haven’t already taken a defensive driving course (or if it’s been a while), enroll in an inexpensive adult driver’s ed course today. It could just save your life one day!
3. Adjust Your Lighting for Driving in the Dark
Good lighting is critical for seeing well enough to drive at night. This starts with your headlights. Have your car dealer or mechanic make sure your headlights are angled properly and make any adjustments as needed. They should be high enough to illuminate the road in front of you, but low enough that they won’t hit the eyes of oncoming drivers. And when you’re on the open road, especially in rural areas, turn on your high beams so you can see farther down the road (just flip the high beams off for oncoming traffic).
Your interior lights should be dim enough that they don’t distract you from the road or make it difficult for your eyes to transition between the interior and exterior of the vehicle. And keep that dome light off while the car is in drive for the same reason.
Check your lights regularly and replace any missing lights immediately.
4. Slow Down
Your reaction time is slower when driving in the dark, so slow down. Remember, the speed limit is the maximum speed you should be driving; don’t go that fast if conditions don’t allow for it. But you shouldn’t go too slowly either; this can interrupt traffic and is hazardous for other drivers since they expect everyone to stick fairly closely to the posted speed limits.
You should also maintain a greater distance from the vehicle in front of you when driving at night. The slower reaction times from driving in the dark mean it will take you longer to come to a stop. So if the vehicle in front of you brakes suddenly, you want to be far enough back to avoid a collision.
Learn more about the perfect following distance and how to drive safely in an adult driver's ed course from Drivers Ed.
5. Take Care of Your Eyes
We’ve discussed the difficulty of seeing clearly while driving in the dark, so it makes sense to take good care of your eyes. First, never look into the headlights of oncoming traffic, which can strain your eyes. Secondly, get regular eye exams and invest in glasses or contacts with the proper prescription as needed.
Stay Safe When Driving in the Dark
Driving at night can be challenging, but with these tips, you’ll be driving in the dark like a pro. Don’t forget to enroll in an adult driver’s ed course from Drivers Ed for more instruction in safe driving.