Driving after sundown presents a unique set of dangers, which explains why accident-related death rates are 3 times greater at night than during the day. And because safe-driving knowledge is safe-driving power, the best way to stay safe at night is to understand the challenges of driving after dark.
Why driving at night is so dangerous
Here are some reasons why driving after dark can increase your risk of crashing (and what you can do to lower your risk).
It's no secret that it's harder to see at night. The lack of sun makes it harder to see road signs, fellow drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and animals. This decreased visibility also makes it harder to gauge distance between your car and other objects.
How to handle it: Slow down and allow more space between you and the cars around you.
Night blindness, also known as nyctalopia, is a condition that makes it hard to see in poor light or at night. It can be caused by eye conditions like cataracts.
Symptoms of night blindness include:
- Decreased vision at night or in poor light
- Peripheral vision problems
- Possible loss of central vision
How to handle it: See an eye doctor if you haven't in a while. Your eye doctor can verify conditions that lead to night blindness. While there's no magic cure for night blindness, your doc may be able to help with a new prescription.
The older we get, the harder it is to see at night. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as the average 30-year-old.
How to handle it: Pick up where Ponce de Leon left off and find the Fountain of Youth. Failing that, slow down and pay extra attention to your surroundings as you get older.
Nighttime is prime time for construction. While this is great for those who drive during rush hour, it's not so good for driving at night.
How to handle it: Keep an eye out for upcoming construction zones. Expect to stop or slowly drive past them.
More drunk drivers on the road
With an increase in drunk drivers comes an added risk of accidents. In fact, the NSC indicates weekend nights are the worst part of the week for fatal accidents.
How to handle it: Expect the unexpected from drivers around you. Drive defensively and signal your intentions clearly.
Nighttime driving safety tips
Driving on a peaceful night can lull you into a sense of security. To make sure you're in good shape safety-wise, follow these tips:
- Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in proper working order.
- Turn your lights on earlier rather than later, especially if you don't have daytime running lights. Having your headlights on about an hour before the sun goes down will make it easier for other drivers to see you at dusk.
- Cardinal rule: be careful with your high beams so you don't blind others. This'll make visibility that much tougher on other drivers.
- Dim your interior lights. Lights in your car could cause nighttime glare on the windshield or attract your attention away from the road.
- Slow down and keep an eye on the speedometer. Driving fast cuts down on your ability to react to whatever comes out of the dark.
- Increase your following distance.
- Avoid nighttime glare.
- Try not to look at oncoming headlights. Instead focus on the right side of the road near the white lines.
- Reduce glare by using the day-night feature on your rearview mirror (it's the little flipper tab beneath it).
- Keep your windshield squeaky clean and have plenty of windshield spray in the tank.
- If you feel sleepy, find somewhere safe to nap and get some shut-eye.
Nighttime driving safety
As an insurance company, your driving safety is, literally, our business. Read some of our other articles on safe driving to make sure you're equipped to handle whatever the road throws your way.
Fall driving dangers
Check out the many driving dangers associated with fall.
Winter driving dangers
Winter is full of dangerous driving hazards. Learn what they are and how to stay safe when navigating the winter streets.
Spring driving dangers
Springtime brings warmer weather and fragrant flowers. But it also brings a slew of driving dangers.
Summer driving dangers
Vacation traffic can turn endless summer into endless rush hour. Get tips on how to avoid the rush and other summer-specific hazards.