As motorists, most of us will have driven at night at one time or another. Driving at night does make it considerably more dangerous compared to driving during the day. Any tips to make our nocturnal trips safer are worthy of serious note.
CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE ABOUT NIGHT DRIVING – IT REALLY IS DANGEROUS
We don’t quite grasp how dangerous night driving is. According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road deaths occur 3 times more at night compared to those occurring during the day.1 We cannot afford to be careless whenever we drive, and even more so at night. Some drivers are deceived into thinking that it’s much safer to drive at night because there’s less traffic.
It may sound so obvious, but if you can arrange your driving life to take place only during the day, you’ll be that much safer. But, we all know that sometimes night driving can’t be avoided.2
WHY IS NIGHT DRIVING SO RISKY?
There are quite a few reasons that make night driving a dangerous business.
BE AWARE – THERE ARE MANY INEXPERIENCED MOTORISTS DRIVING AT NIGHT
No matter how experienced you may be as a driver, it does not protect you from the actions of inexperienced drivers. 2 You have to try and predict what they may do next. Never take it for granted that, because the traffic light is green for you to go, you have the right to go.
EYESIGHT IS CRITICAL – YOUNG AND OLD DRIVERS SHOULD AVOID NIGHT DRIVING
Our perception of depth, recognizing different colors, as well as peripheral vision is seriously impaired after dark.2 Young and old drivers require more light to be able to see. It is more difficult at night to assess distance and speed.
LOOK AFTER YOUR EYES
Your eyes are the focal point of any safe driving, whether during the day or night. The worse you see as a driver, the more of a danger you are to yourself and to others on the road. Recognise the serious limitation, namely, that artificial light is not the same as natural sunlight. Some drivers suffer from night blindness (nyctalopia). To be on the safe side, go for regular visits to the optometrist, and more frequently as you become older. 2
THE CAR’S HEADLIGHT BEAMS ARE NOT THAT LONG, SO TRAVEL SLOWER
Your car’s headlights light up the way only so far, and your vision of what lies ahead is restricted to what you can see. Traveling at 120 km/hour means your car covers 33 m in 1 second. Thus if you take 2 seconds to react to an object on the road, your car will have covered more than half a full rugby field (120 m). It makes you think, doesn’t it? Travel slower, so that you have more time to respond.
TIRED AND DRUNK DRIVERS AND PEDESTRIANS SHARE THE SAME ROAD AS YOU
You do not know who you are sharing the road with at night. Some motorist approaching you may have been driving for 6 hours nonstop. Be especially cautious when driving late at night, which is when motorists are likely to be traveling from a party or a pub. 2
Pedestrians walking across a freeway late at night may pose a serious danger. Not only is it difficult for them to assess how fast you are approaching them, but it is also difficult for you to spot them.
WILD OR DOMESTIC ANIMALS MAY BE ON THE ROAD
Be extra cautious when driving through areas where game, cattle or dogs can be expected to be wandering on the road. Look out for pairs of moving bright dots, which are an animal’s eyes reflecting the car’s headlights. 2
HOW CAN WE MAKE NIGHT DRIVING SAFER?
Not everything is beyond our control. Let’s apply the following tips.
The windscreen may be clean on the outside, but grease marks on the inside can distort light from oncoming cars at night. Wiping the outside and inside of a windscreen with, for instance, a newspaper will ensure good vision. 2,3
Dimming dashboard lights will improve night vision. Avoid having any other lights on inside the car while traveling.
Don’t allow cell phones to distract you during night driving. Avoid fatigue as well as consuming alcohol when driving. What is scary is that tired drivers can fall asleep for a second or two. However, the driver can do nothing about it, even if he or she is aware of such an event. Hence, the necessity for drivers to stop regularly and sleep if necessary.2
It is shocking how often you see ‘one-eyed’ vehicles traveling at night on South African roads. Ensure that your headlight beams are aimed correctly and that the headlights are not dirty. All tail lights and indicator lights must be in proper working order. 2
You have read some tips that can help you to drive safely at night. Just to realize how dangerous night driving really is will be a breakthrough for many.
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040 (car insurance and life cover products). The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.