For most adults, driving is a daily activity. Most people drive to work each morning and home each afternoon. Even those who don’t drive to work often drive children to school, drive around town to finish errands, or drive to appointments.
While most driving happens during the day, people also drive at night for many reasons. Because driving at night presents special challenges, this post provides nine tips to help you drive safely at night.
Driving at Night: Statistics
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), only 25% of all car travel happens at night. Yet, the NSC also reports that 50% of all fatal car accidents happen at night. Similarly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that traffic crashes are three times more likely to happen at night. Worse, nearly sixty percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers happen during nighttime hours.
The situation is similar in Alabama. In 2018, the Alabama Department of Transportation found that roughly 50 percent of all Alabama car crashes occurred at night. These numbers prove how dangerous it can be to drive at night.
The Trouble with Night Driving
While many factors make driving at night riskier, the darkness of night is the main reason why more crashes happen between dusk and dawn.
At night, even people with 20/20 vision will have difficulty seeing things that they would see easily during the day. Though headlights help somewhat, the average beams only light up anywhere from 160 to 500 feet of road in front of the vehicle. The limited ability to see means that drivers are less able to respond to hazards and road conditions.
While dim lighting affects all night drivers, darkness can also create or worsen other vision issues. Glare from the lights of oncoming cars can make it harder to see oncoming traffic and dangers. Studies show that glares temporarily reduce a driver’s ability to see which increases the amount of time that drivers need to react to the road.
Night blindness also affects many drivers. The part of the eye – the rods – that controls night vision can be harmed by a variety of conditions. When the rods are damaged, “night blindness” results. Drivers with night blindness can see at night but see poorly. Whether night vision can be cured depends on the cause of the condition.
Human Error at Night
Many people change their behavior at night. These changes can increase the risk of nighttime accidents.
- Driving While Intoxicated is More Common at Night
Alcohol often plays a major role in nighttime activities like parties, happy hours, and receptions. Because nearly 30 percent of fatal crashes involve alcohol, the increase in drinking during evening hours makes driving at night far riskier. The NHTSA reports that the period from 12 midnight to 3 a.m. is when most alcohol related crashes occur.
- Drowsy Driving is More Common During the Evening
Because sleepiness reduces focus and reaction times, tired drivers are three times more likely to crash than those who are well-rested. In fact, the NSC found that driving after 20 hours without sleep had the same effect on driving as a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% (the legal limit in the United States). Because most crashes caused by drowsy drivers occur between midnight and 6 a.m., driver fatigue makes night driving more dangerous.
- Drivers Do Not Focus While Driving at Night
One might think that drivers would be more likely to focus while driving at night, but this is not necessarily the case. While texting while driving – a dangerous habit – peaks during the afternoon rush hour, plenty of people continue texting after the sun sets. In fact, in one survey, less than two percent of drivers indicated that they would never send a text while driving at night. Drivers whose vision and reactions are already limited by darkness cannot afford to reduce their responsiveness with distractions.
Nine Tips to Drive Safely at Night
Though night driving presents many challenges, it can be done safely. Here are nine steps you can take to drive safely at night.
#1 – Stay Focused.
Avoid distractions from phones, passengers, or other sources. Do not do anything that will take your focus off the road.
#2 – Do Not Drive While Impaired.
Never drive after consuming alcohol or drugs. If you must drink, use a designated driver or hire a ride-share service.
#3 – Avoid Drowsy Driving.
Do not drive if you are sleepy. Cancel the trip if you can. If you must drive, take a quick nap before hitting the road.
#4 – Check Your Vision Regularly.
Get your eyes checked regularly to make sure that they are healthy. Get help for night blindness or other conditions.
#5 – Check Your Headlights.
Test your headlights regularly to ensure that they are clean and working properly. Also, make sure that your lights are positioned to properly light the road.
#6 – Clean Your Windshield.
Dirty windshields can scatter light and intensify the glare from oncoming traffic. Clean your windshield carefully and do not leave streaks.
# 7 – Do Not Stare Directly into Oncoming Lights.
To avoid the glare from oncoming headlights, avert your gaze. Keep your eyes on the road, but briefly shift your eyes slightly down and to the right until the vehicle passes.
#8 – Check Your Interior Lighting.
Bright lights in your vehicle’s cabin can make it difficult for your eyes to shift from the darkness of night to the control panel. Dim the interior lights to make it easier on your eyes.
#9 – Drive Slowly and Defensively.
Darkness limits visibility which reduces the amount of time that drivers have to react to hazards. While it’s hard to increase visibility, driving slowly will give you more time to react.
Questions About Driving at Night?
Night driving can be dangerous, but if drivers follow the above safety tips, everyone can arrive home safely. If you have been in a car accident at night or any other time and have questions or need representation, call Collins Law, LLC. The team at Collins Law will fight for your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation.