Is driving after dark really that risky? The National Safety Council says it is. The organization claims: “Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day.” To keep you safe on the road after sundown, we’ve put together a hit list of top tips for driving safely at night.
1. Clean Your Windshield
Sure, that dirty windshield seems annoying but harmless during the day – but it can cause blinding glare when sunlight and headlights hit it just right. Dust that you might not notice during the day can build up on the inside, too, so it’s important to clean your windshield both inside and out.
2. Check Your Lights
Are your headlight and taillights in good working order? Are they aimed properly? What about your turn signals? You want to see and be seen without blinding other drivers, so make sure everything is aimed and working just right. And feel free to turn on your lights an hour before sundown; they may help other drivers see you coming.
3. Don’t Look Into the Light
Try not to look directly into the lights of oncoming traffic. When cars are coming at you, do your best to cast your gaze down and to the right, while focusing on the white line. This will prevent you from being temporarily blinded by their headlights.
4. Increase distance and Reduce Speed
Sure, we’re all in a rush to get home, but reducing your speed and avoiding tailgating is far likelier to get you there safe and sound. Use your headlights to help you gauge your distance and stopping time. If you can’t stop within the illuminated area you’re too close! Another way to gauge your distance is by using the 3-second rule: as the vehicle in front of you passes a designated landmark along the road (a tree, a construction barrel, etc.), there should be at least a 3-second gap before you reach the same area. If it takes less than 3 seconds to catch up, slow down!
5. Be Seen on the Side
If you need to pull over, be sure you’re easily seen by other drivers. Carry reflective triangles, turn on your hazard lights, and even turn on your dome light to increase your chances of being seen. And remember: the safest place to wait for help is inside your car.
6. Don’t be Distracted
Whether you’re texting, fiddling with the radio, or dining in your car, taking your attention off the road is dangerous. It’s not just the hefty fines that make distracted driving risky business. When you’re tired after a long day at work, your reaction times will be reduced. Taking your full attention off the road is a bad idea.
7. Watch for Pedestrians
Walkers and joggers don’t always wear safety gear, and they can be incredibly difficult to see after dark. Always take extra time to watch for pedestrians, especially on poorly-lit roads. If you’re at an intersection, be sure to look both ways before you make your move to ensure no one is stepping off the curb.
8. Don’t Drink and Drive
Fatal alcohol-related accidents are four times higher at night than during the day. Don’t put yourself or others at risk by driving under the influence. Use defensive driving techniques and keep an eye out for signs of drunk driving, especially after dark. The California Office of Traffic Safety offers this list to help you identify and avoid drunk drivers. If you do suspect someone is driving drunk, keep your distance and if you can, safely call 911.