Safety Tips for Driving at Night
Nighttime driving only accounts for about a quarter of all driving that’s done in the US. One advantage of this is that traffic is very light, so you can get to where you’re going much faster during these late hours. But it’s also a lot more dangerous. Many of you have probably noticed this by watching the news, but the fact are gruesome: death rates are three times higher during the night, while about two thirds of all pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
Three different factors usually combine to make these deadly figures what they are: fatigue, alcohol an poor visibility.
Fatigue is a killer on the road, and you should take your drowsiness very seriously. You’re driving out of state back from a big wedding when somebody fails to give way at an intersection and T-bones you. That split-second you have to react is like the difference between life and death, and you need to have your senses at their best. If you are feeling sleepy, take as few risks as possible.
The problem of fatigue is most severe between the hours of 3 and 7 AM, around the time when you usually go to bed and during longer journeys. Remember, driving for 12 hours or more without sleeping is about as bad as driving drunk, so it’s better to make stops, stretch, drink a cup of coffee at a gas station. Remember, the National Highway Safety Transportation Association (NHSTA) estimates falling asleep at the wheel is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 40,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities every year.
If you really must complete your journey, pull up to a rest area and take a nap for about 15-20 minutes.
Right, alcohol. The men with sirens have been aggressively targeting drunk-drivers everywhere, but unless they install scanners in every car, alcohol will continue to be a big problem. More deadly car crashes take place on weekend nights when people have been to the pubs than at any other time of the week. You might not have been drinking, but that other guy…
Since humans detect their surroundings mainly by sight, poor visibility is the biggest problem when driving at night. Car headlights only allow us to see a small portion of the road ahead. These artificial lights dull our vision and decrease the sharpness of peripheral sight. Some people may also experience a warped perception of distance or shape. If you do, you might want to consult an eye doctor.
In order to be improve your odds of getting to your destination safely, there’s a few things you should definitely to. First off all, if visibility is reduced, limit your speed and have good lane discipline. Just because you haven’t seen a car for a couple of minutes doesn’t mean you should clip corners, skip lanes or cut across on mountain roads.
In clear weather, your headlights should allow you to see for about 100 meter or about 350 feet. If an obstacle appears at that distance, you should still have time to avoid it. And speaking of lights, keep the headlights, tail lights, signal lights and windows clean and make sure the aim is right.
If there is another driver ahead of you, keep your headlights on low beams so you don't blind the other driver. And if he fails to do the same, the best thing you can do is look at the right side of the road and use that to steer the car.
If you’re attempting a long trip at night, make plenty of strops along the way at gas stations. The light will trick your body into waking up a bit, while coffee can keep you awake for a couple of hours. Light exercise is always a must to get blood going and reduce fatigue in joints.
Lastly, if something happens to your car or if you do have an accident, try to pull off the road completely. Turn the warning flashers on and the dome light. Place the reflectors or flares on the right side of the road and if possible get everybody out of the car and well away from the road. You wouldn’t believe how many trucks end up ramming cars that are stopped on the side of the road.