Tips for Safe Driving at Night
Statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that the risks associated with day driving are dramatically different from night driving. Specifically, a driver is more likely to get into an accident during the day. This makes sense because ordinary traffic patterns put more people on the roads during the day than at night.
However, the same statistics show that night accidents are deadlier than day accidents. Thus, even though a driver is more likely to get into an accident during the day than at night, a driver is also more likely to die in a night accident than a day accident. The data reveals some of the reasons for these differences which, in turn, give rise to some important tips for safe driving at night.
Wear a Seat Belt
Seat belts save lives. This means that safe driving at night requires that you wear a seat belt. However, seat belt use varies by as much as 30% between day time and night time. A few reasons this occurs might include:
- Fatigue: Night drivers may be more careless because they are fatigued.
- Intoxication: Drivers at night are more likely to be intoxicated and, thus, less likely to remember to wear a seat belt.
- Fewer cars: Night drivers might see lighter traffic conditions and make a conscious decision to buckle up.
- Dark conditions: Law enforcement is less likely to notice belt-less drivers and passengers at night, which might encourage them to skip seat belts.
Fortunately, modern cars include other passive systems that can save lives when vehicle occupants fail to wear a seat belt.
For example, airbags, collision sensors, safety glass, breakaway bumpers, and reinforced frames can improve your chances of surviving an automobile accident even if you do not wear a seat belt. These effects are significant enough that you might receive a discount on your automobile insurance if your car includes these safety features.
Avoid Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving might be responsible for as many as 6,000 fatal car accidents every year in the U.S. Unfortunately, drowsy driving puts both you and other road users at risk. This means that when you drive drowsy, you might kill a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist, or motorist. Thus, safe driving at night means that you should be well-rested and avoid driving while sleepy.
In addition to the guilt that you would experience from placing others at risk by driving drowsy, you would likely face civil or even criminal legal liability. Unfortunately, driving drowsy is a fairly clear-cut act of negligence or even recklessness and, as such, would leave an attorney at law with very few defenses for your actions.
Instead of facing those risks, you can avoid drowsy driving by:Pulling over if you feel drowsy.Calling for a ride share or taxi instead of driving while drowsy.Recognizing the signs of drowsiness and delaying your trip until you have rested.Avoiding medications that cause drowsiness.Consulting a doctor if you experience symptoms of sleep disorders like insomnia or narcolepsy.Making sure you develop a regular sleep schedule during the day if you work nights.
Do Not Drink and Drive
Safe driving at night, or any other time, means not drinking and driving. However, this is especially important for night driving because the rate of intoxicated driving is over three times higher at night than during the day. That is, you are over three times more likely to cross paths with a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol at night than during the day.
Similarly, this means that you are more likely to find yourself in a situation where you are too intoxicated to drive at night than during daylight hours. The costs associated with drunk or drugged driving include:
- Bail: If you are arrested, you will need to pay bail or wait in jail until your case is resolved.
- Fines and jail time: If you are convicted, most states have a minimum fine and mandatory jail time for offenders. This means that you could pay dearly even if you hire one of the 1.35 million lawyers in the U.S.
- Insurance rates: Drivers who have been convicted of impaired driving will either pay higher auto insurance rates or become uninsurable.
- Damages: You and your insurance company could be sued for negligence by any victims of a drunk driving accident you cause. These damages would include medical and auto body repair expenses incurred by the victims.
Another reason night time accidents are more deadly than day time accidents is that drivers are more likely to speed at night than during the day. This propensity to speed might relate to other factors involved in night time accidents. For example, drunk or drowsy drivers might be more likely to speed than sober or well-rested drivers.
However, even sober or well-rested drivers might be more likely to speed because they might believe that with less traffic and fewer law enforcement speed traps at night, the risks of speeding are lower. Nevertheless, safe driving at night means watching your speed.
Speeding has a couple of effects on accidents:
- Speeding increases the likelihood of getting in an accident. For every 1% increase in speed, your chances of being in an accident increase by 2%.
- Speeding increases the damage caused by an accident. An increase in speed by 40% (from 25 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour, for example) almost doubles the energy transfer in an accident. Doubling your speed (from 35 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour, for example) increases the energy transfer by four times. This is the difference between a minor fender bender that can be fixed by auto repair centers or having your car totaled.
Driving at night can be difficult for all drivers, but particularly drivers who are prone to inattentiveness. As a result, drivers must pay attention to the road and other motorists for safe driving at night.
Poor lighting conditions caused by glare and reflections of artificial lights and darkness of unlit roadways can compound the other causes of night time accidents. Drunk or drowsy drivers might not observe objects in their pathway due to poor lighting. However, even unimpaired drivers might miss road damage or other hazards if they are inattentive.
Moreover, many states do road construction at night because the weather is cooler and traffic is not as heavy. An inattentive driver could miss or misinterpret construction signs protecting an asphalt crack sealing crew and strike a barrier or, worse yet, a construction worker or vehicle.
Similarly, inattentiveness, in the form of distracted driving, can also cause problems. Driving at night can be boring, particularly for commercial drivers who spend a great deal of time on the road. The temptation to do other things while driving at night can overwhelm drivers and could lead to texting, calling, eating, or drinking while driving.
However, even a minor distraction can have serious consequences. At 65 miles per hour, your car covers slightly over 95 feet every second. Just glancing at your phone or taking your hand off the wheel to unwrap your sandwich leaves your car without a driver for nearly 100 feet.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Unfortunately, more things that cause accidents can go wrong at night than during the day. As a result, an important tip for safe driving at night is to make sure your vehicle is suited for night driving. For example:
- Headlights: If your headlights are burned out or improperly aimed, your day time driving will not be affected. At night, however, driving without headlights can be deadly.
- Tail lights: Brake lights and tail lights tell other drivers to watch out for your car. At night, burned out or broken lights might make your car practically invisible to other drivers.
- Windshield: A dirty or cracked windshield can make it difficult or nearly impossible to see road hazards at night.
Making your car safe for night driving does not require you to go crazy buying authorized Dodge Viper parts for your vehicle. Many vehicles can be made safe by simply checking the lights periodically, keeping light lenses and windows clean, and repairing broken lights and cracked windshields promptly.
Keep Fuel in Your Vehicle
Another risk associated with night time driving is that if the car breaks down or runs out of gas at night, your vehicle might be difficult for other drivers to spot on the side of the road. An important tip for safe driving at night is to check your fuel gauge regularly and stop at gasoline or diesel fuel suppliers to keep your tank topped off.
In the event that you do run out of fuel or break down at night, you should consider carrying road flares that you can place on the road to guide other cars away from your vehicle at night. These products are relatively inexpensive and can save both your vehicle and your life if you are stuck on the side of the road in the dark.
Road flares have undergone a change over the past few years to make them both safer and more useful in the event of a breakdown. Road flares used to include flammable chemicals that burned brightly for a short period of time, usually 15 to 30 minutes. Now, however, road flares include LED lights powered by rechargeable batteries. These LED road flares last longer, contain no flammable chemicals, and can be reused.
Be Aware of Your Night Vision
Not every person has strong night vision. For safe driving at night, you should understand how good your night vision is, and whether your vision allows you to drive safely.
Many drivers can have difficulties seeing at night:
- Older drivers: As drivers age, their eyes’ ability to gather light diminishes. According to some studies, the average driver over the age of 50 needs twice as much light as the average driver at the age of 30 to see clearly.
- Drivers with glasses or contacts: Glasses or contacts can create a glare that is highly distracting or even blinding at night under artificial lights.
- Drivers with compromised eyesight: Cataracts, retinal damage, and other degenerative eye diseases can reduce night vision so severely that safe driving at night becomes impossible.
Fortunately, having your eyes checked will not cost a fortune and require you to take out title loans on your car to cover the cost. Most optometrists can check your night vision when you get fitted for new glasses. If your eye disease requires treatment by an ophthalmologist, your doctor will probably let you know if your eyesight compromises your ability to drive at night.
Buy a New Car
New technology has become available to help drivers compensate for poor visibility at night. For example, night vision technology can amplify the amount of visible light, allowing you to see objects in the dark. The enhanced image is usually shown on a screen on the dashboard.
Similarly, driver alert systems can sound an alarm when the car comes too close to another car or stationary obstacle. By listening for the alarm, the driver can avoid objects that might not otherwise be visible.
Likewise, adaptive cruise control and automatic braking systems can slow your vehicle down or even stop it if it senses an imminent collision. These systems will likely standard equipment on most new cars sometime before 2025.
These and other technologies may also be available now on newer vehicles. If you are concerned about your night vision, you should contact an auto dealership about the features they offer on their cars.
Safe Driving at Night in Other Vehicles
Safe driving at night includes other vehicles too. Riding a bicycle or motorcycle at night, for example, can be particularly dangerous because of the lower visibility of bicycles and motorcycles. To make sure you can safely drive your motorcycle or bicycle at night, you should make your vehicle as visible as possible.
Similarly, safe driving at night in a large truck or while towing means taking extra care to check your blind spots for vehicles that might come upon you unexpectedly. Some technology that can help with this includes blind spot monitoring sensors that are included on newer vehicles and towing mirrors that can be adapted to almost any tow vehicle. If you are not a professional driver or are new to towing, you might benefit from enrolling in driving lessons that cover safe driving at night.
Safe driving at night is not limited to road vehicles. Driving at night in fishing boats, speed boats, and other watercraft can also be dangerous. A few tips for safe boating at night include:
- Watch for buoy lights that direct water traffic and mark potential hazards.
- Use navigational instruments since your vision will be limited.
- Slow down since stopping or turning takes longer when navigating a boat.
- Wear a life preserver just in case you strike a rock, run aground, or collide with another boat.
- Listen for hazards because sound travels well on the water and many water warning devices use sounds like bells and horns.
Safe driving at night is possible for every driver. Just remember to keep your vehicle in good operating condition and use its safety features, including seat belts. Be aware of your limitations and do not drive if your night vision is compromised, you are fatigued, or you are impaired. Finally, remember to slow down. Not only will you reduce your chances of getting into an accident, but you will also reduce the severity of any accident.