It’s no secret that driving at night can be more dangerous than driving during the day. When you’re fighting poor visibility, sleepiness, and distracted drivers, it can be a challenge to avoid all of the risks around you. While you’d likely rather stay off the road completely, there’s often no way to avoid driving in the dark. Whether you’re a new driver or a seasoned veteran, you can use these practical tips to drive safely long after the sun goes down:
- Be extra defensive. The number one rule we’re taught in driving school is to always be defensive — you need to stay alert, follow all road rules and signs, and be ready to respond to other drivers who may do something unexpected. At night, you need to take your defensive driving up a level, because the chance of driving near an impaired or drowsy driver is higher than normal. While driving in the dark, keep a close eye on other vehicles, especially those that may be acting erratically, and always be ready to move your own vehicle out of harm’s way. And when driving in rural areas, keep an eye on the tree line for potential wildlife like deer and coyotes that like to come out after dark.
- Keep your windshield clean. When driving at night, you’ll easily notice all the grime that’s built up on your windshield throughout the course of the day, week, or month. Whether it’s salt, fingerprints, or an unlucky bug that got in your way, your visibility can be affected by what’s on your windshield, especially when daylight’s not on your side. Before leaving in the evening, always take some time to clean the outside of your windshield with your wipers and make sure your vehicle has enough windshield washer fluid for your trip. If your wipers aren’t cleaning your windshield as well as they should, it may be time to replace them.
- Keep your interior lights down low. Between dashboard lights, dash cameras, and GPS devices, the cabin of your vehicle can quickly become a bright and distracting place. When driving at night, you should turn the brightness of these devices down to the lowest practical setting. By dimming these devices, you’ll minimize reflections on your windows and your eyes will be able to adjust to the dark road ahead.
- Know when to use your high beams. Turning on your high beams is a great way to improve your visibility when driving at night, since they can increase your view of the road from 45 meters ahead to approximately 90 meters. But it’s also important that you remember not to keep them on all the time. You should only turn your high beams on when on rural or open roads, and you should always dim them if you see another vehicle approaching or when you’re driving behind someone else. If you always keep your high beams on, you risk temporarily blinding other drivers with your lights at close and medium range.
- Avoid looking into other vehicles’ headlights. While you’ll likely remember to dim your high beams for oncoming traffic from here on out, not all other drivers will do the same. To protect your eyes from the potentially blinding headlights of other drivers, look down and to the right while passing an oncoming vehicle with bright lights. You can use the edge of the road or other lane markings to make sure you stay safely in your lane until you’ve completely passed the oncoming vehicle.
- Drive a little slower than normal. When driving on an unlit or poorly lit road at night, you can only see as far as your headlights can reach. If you’re driving too fast, you won’t have enough time to react to oncoming threats and safely make an emergency stop. To protect yourself, your passengers, and other drivers at night, you should drive slower than the suggested daytime speed limit so you have more time to see and react to any surprises.
- Stay off the road if you’re tired. If you must drive late at night or in the early hours of the morning, you may try to power through feelings of tiredness or drowsiness. But being tired can affect your response time and increase your chances of being involved in an accident. If you can, avoid driving at all costs if you’re not feeling completely alert. If driving is unavoidable, make sure to take regular breaks to stretch and roll down your windows to get fresh air to stay awake. If you start to feel drowsy, pull over immediately.
These are just a few of the many things you can do to reduce your risk of getting into a collision while driving at night. But sometimes accidents happen, even when you’re taking extra safety measures to protect yourself and others. If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed your car insurance policy, contact your licensed broker to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect you in the event of a collision.
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