If you’re like most drivers, you probably dread getting behind the wheel after dark, and for good reason: humans aren’t nocturnal. Between poor eye performance, slower reaction time and just feeling tired, driving at night can be a challenge at best and dangerous at worst.
In fact, in the US, nearly 50 per cent of fatal car accidents occur at night even though there are far fewer drivers on the road [Elliott].
Since there will always be trips, meetings and events that will put you in your car after dark, following these simple tips for driving at night will help make sure you reach your destination safely and feel more confident about being on the road after sunset.
Six tips for driving at night
1. Fuel up your body
It’s a good idea to have a full tank of gas for your vehicle, but giving your body the fuel it needs to do it’s job is just as important. Eat high protein foods rather than dishes high in carbohydrates that could make you feel sleepy [National Sleep Foundation]. Avoid medications that can make you feel drowsy as well as alcohol, and perk up if you need to with some java.
2. Dim your dashboard lights
Didn’t know you had a dimmer for the light behind your dashboard symbols? Most modern vehicles do. Turning down the brightness from max will reduce stray reflections and help improve your forward vision.
3. Avoid driver fatigue
In Canada, it’s estimated that nearly 20 per cent of fatal collisions involve driver fatigue (CCMTA qtd in Transport Canada). A surprising 60 per cent of Canadian drivers said they occasionally drove while fatigued and 15 per cent admitted they had fallen asleep in the past year in a 2007 study. (Vanlaar qtd. in Transport Canada).
All the more reason to make sure you’re alert enough to avoid the drowsy drivers in the other lanes. Some signs of driver fatigue include blinking or yawning a lot, drifting over the centre line, and daydreaming.
To avoid driver fatigue:
- Get a good night’s rest before a long road trip.
- Take turns at the wheel with other drivers.
- Pull over at rest stops for a bit of fresh air and exercise, or even a 20-minute nap. Use cones to alert other drivers that your vehicle is pulled over.
- Eat fruit and drink water throughout the drive.
- Keep your eyes moving by scanning across the road instead of focusing on one area.
4. Spot and slow down for wildlife
People who drive at night for a living or spend a lot of time on dark country roads have a trick for avoiding collisions with animals: look for the reflection of your headlights in their eyes.
When two little white balls are glowing along the ditch, slow down. If it turns out to be a big animal, slow down as fast as you can and don’t swerve. Deer tend to follow headlights and are apt to move in front of you.
5.Glance away from oncoming lights
Instead of trying to guess if another vehicle’s brights are on or getting caught up in their glare, look away. The high beams of oncoming vehicles can be blinding and distracting on dark roads. You’re better off to keep your eyes on the white or yellow lines of the road.
6. Clean and aim your headlights
You want to make sure your lights aren’t hazardous to other drivers, and that they’re positioned to do their job best. Cleaning your headlights as well as your taillights, signal lights and windows (use newspaper to grab glare-causing residue) so you can see and be seen.
Aiming your headlights will help make sure you’re not blinding other drivers as well as improve your own ability to see the road. If your headlights are uneven or pointed too low, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to get them pointed properly.
You can also switch your headlights to suit different driving conditions you might face on the road at night.
Do you have any tips to help stay you stay alert or prepare for driving at night?