It’s that time of year again, the clocks have gone back and the evenings are shorter. This means that you may often find yourself driving in the dark whether it’s driving home from work, to a friend's house or to the shops for some late-night snacks.
Driving in the dark can be daunting for some, especially for people with astigmatism. Although you shouldn’t be afraid to drive at night, there is an increased level of danger. Therefore, it’s important to practise safe driving
and take extra precautions to protect yourself and other road users. To help you become more confident, we’ve put together this post with some advice and top tips for night driving.
1. Know how to use your lights
It may be an obvious one, but believe it or not lots of people drive around with the wrong lights on (or even none at all in built up areas) all the time! It’s essential to use your headlights at night so that you can see the road in front of you and other road users can see you. You should know how to turn your headlights on as well as becoming familiar with using your low beams and high beams.
Use your full beams when driving in poorly lit or rural areas but dim or use low beams when:
- Being overtaken by another vehicle
- Driving behind another vehicle
- There is oncoming traffic
- Driving through lit-up areas
- Approaching pedestrians
You should also use low beams before sunset and after sunrise when it’s not yet fully bright outside.
2. Get your eyes tested
It takes some time for your eyes to adjust to the low level of light at night but for some people, night time driving can be more difficult. If you struggle to see traffic signs properly or find the glare from oncoming traffic too much, then it’s best to get an eye exam. Some drivers wear night driving glasses or contact lenses but there’s no scientific proof that they work.
Book an appointment with an optometrist if you’re having trouble with your vision. Other people experience what’s known as astigmatism which causes blurry or distorted vision. Driving a night with astigmatism can be dangerous as blurry vision can become worse in low light.
3. Watch out for pedestrians, cyclists and animals
The chance of an accident is heightened at night time when there is decreased visibility. Although pedestrians and cyclists should be well lit up and wearing reflective clothing when out in the dark, some don’t. Remember that dipped headlights only let you see between 45m and 60m in front of you and oncoming traffic can dazzle you meaning you have to be extra cautious of pedestrians and cyclists.
Many animals are nocturnal and only come out at night so it’s also important to be on the lookout for our furry friends who may be out and about. No one would like to accidentally run over a rabbit but hitting a big animal such as a deer can cause damage to both your car and person.
The safest way to avoid animals, pedestrians and cyclists is by slowing down and overtaking when it’s safe to do so. You should never swerve. Always be aware of your surroundings and expect the unexpected.
4. Don’t stare at oncoming traffic
Staring directly at oncoming vehicles can dazzle you and temporarily affect your vision. The best thing to do when lights from other vehicles are coming toward you is to focus on the road ahead. Try to keep your sight on the yellow or white lines marked out on the road. If needed, slow down or pull in when safe to do so.
You can also be blinded by vehicles driving behind you. If this is the case, turn on the night driving mode of your internal mirror if it’s an option. Alternatively, temporarily adjust the angle of the mirror but don’t reflect the light back to the car behind.
5. Be aware of fatigue
Drivers falling asleep at the wheel happens all too often. You may be driving home after a long day at work or perhaps you were at a concert. Either way, there's a risk of driver fatigue.
If you start to get sleepy, it’s a good idea to pull in at the side of the road. You can also stop at a nearby gas station or rest zone. If driving with another fully licensed driver, arrange for them to take over.
You may be feeling fine, but you should be aware of other road users who may be sleepy. If you see another vehicle driving erratically, report it.
Finding yourself in a car accident late at night is something we all dread. The first thing to do is stop the car if it is safe to do so, turn off your engine and put your hazard lights on. Once pulled in, check on your passengers (if you have any) then call 999 if anyone is hurt or the road is obstructed. Don’t forget to take out car insurance before you set off on your journey so you aren’t out of pocket should you cause damage or injury.