This site is all rights reserved 2013 by Michael Moran - Certified Instructor

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Night Driving Tips

Night-time driving is an environment that should be approached with special attention. Whether you’re starting out as a new night-time driver or becoming seasoned, drivers must never underestimate the precarious nature of night-time driving.

 

You should not be afraid to drive at night, but you need to remember there’s an increased level of danger at any moment in doing so, no matter what weather condition is present. You are more likely to encounter a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at night. The most dangerous time to drive is between the hours of midnight and 6am, especially on the weekends.

Here are my points and tips on making the transition less nerve racking for those venturing into driving at night or those that have been doing it for a while. If you take these things into consideration, you will be more apt to have a safe and uneventful night-time driving experience. Knowing how to keep yourself and your passengers safe while driving at night will reduce stress and make the experience just another enjoyable driving experience.

​Maintain those Head lights.

      Keeping the headlights clean, aimed in the right direction and lit is the key to safe night driving. Don’t drive around too long with one head-light. It will cut down on your visibility and before you have time to replace it, the other one can burn out leaving you without any head lights.

 

It’s illegal and you can get a ticket as well as it puts you at a higher risk for an accident and makes you less visible to others using the road. Every year you should check the beam alignment to see if it needs to be adjusted especially if you have damage to your front-end area.

        It’s a good idea to get in the habit of turning your headlights on about a half hour before dusk. This makes it easier for you to see as the sun sets (easier transition on the eyes from light-to-dark), but also makes you more visible to other drivers.

 

Of course, during times of bad weather, consider using your lights regardless of the time of day. When in doubt, turn them on. It can’t do any harm, unless it’s a case of driving in fog, rain, or snow. In such conditions, they can make your vision even worse.

 

High beams will shine directly into the fog or precipitation, which will reflect the bright light back to you. During snowstorms, snowflakes and ice crystals will reflect even more light back to you. The dangerous result is a wall of glare, which will make it even more difficult for you to see the road.

EyEs out for pedestrians.

As night falls, it’s harder to see and to be seen. Even familiar surroundings look different seen under street lights and lit up by headlights. It’s no wonder crash rates are higher at night for everyone—including experienced drivers.

■   Look for pedestrians everywhere. Pedestrians may not be walking where they should be or may be hard to see, especially in poor lit conditions, including dusk/dawn/night and poor weather. 

■   It’s a good idea to scan the intersection before arriving and always stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk or where pedestrian crosswalk signs are posted. Be on the alert more so at night for jaywalking pedestrians. 

■   Just like in the daytime, never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk unless you know now pedestrians are in it. The stopped vehicle may be allowing pedestrians to cross the street. 

Know how to turn-on / turn-off your high beams.

​Before driving a vehicle at night for the first time, make sure you know how the headlights and low / high beams of that particular vehicle operated. The vehicle’s owner’s manual has the information about where the apparatus to turn the lights on and off is located, as well as instructions on how to use the vehicle’s high beams.

 

Also, it’s a good idea to locate the vehicle’s cabin lights. Although you shouldn’t drive with them on, you should know where they are located in case of an emergency.

Instrument Panel and Dash Light Dimmer Switch.

Yes. Your car has a control switch. USE IT! Dimming of your instrument panel and dash lights can eliminate reflections from bright dashboard LEDs on the windshield or distracting lighting from large infotainment screens inside a vehicle that can diminish your vision allowing your eyes to better adjust to the darkness ahead, improving night time visibility. 

 

Keep distractions to a minimum when driving at night. Although you should prevent distractions while driving any time of the day, driving at night requires even more focused attention. Put away your cell phone, turn the radio down, and ask passengers to assist you whenever you feel the need.

No Dozing off. Z Z Z z z z.

Be aware of driver fatigue. Driving at night can be more dangerous because you may experience tiredness or fatigue. If you begin to become sleepy while driving at night, immediately make arrangements for someone else to drive or find somewhere to rest.

NOT RECOMMENDED, but if solo, pull over in a safe place and rest your eyes for 20 minutes every episode if you have no other options and must continue to drive. Opening the window, turning on the A/C or playing of the radio may not help much. Also, be aware of other night time drivers who might be experiencing the same feelings of fatigue while on the road after a long day at work or school.

Don’t Overdrive Your Headlights

Because your reaction time will be slower than during the daytime, a reduction in speed is advised. Even with headlights, it will be more difficult seeing what’s ahead on the road at night.

 

Speed signs are set for driving during the day in dry, clear conditions – not for driving at night. Your headlights should illuminate the road ahead of you for approximately 4 seconds of headway. If you have poor headlights or you aren’t getting at least a 4 second headway, it’s best to slow down.

Using your Headlights Wisely.

Low visibility at night can be scary for any driver. 90% of a driver’s reactions depend on acute vision, including depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision, all of which become severely limited at night.

 

High-beam headlights shine at an angle to illuminate the road 350 to 400 feet ahead, or about twice as far as low beams. remember, low beams may only give you a second or two to react to a hazard when traveling at higher speeds.

 

Your driving visibility should be sufficient when using your vehicle’s regular headlights at dusk, in urban areas, or in well-lit neighborhoods. In rural areas or roads with few street lights, you may need to use your vehicle’s high beams to see the road clearly. Be very cautious of other motorists when driving at night.

Use caution when using your high beams.

High beams should be used at night as often as possible anytime you can't see far enough down the road. 

During adverse weather, use your best judgment. Be sure to dim your lights for oncoming traffic. You don't want to blind an oncoming driver. It increases the risk of an accident.

 

If the oncoming driver fails to dim their high beams, it's ok to "flash" your lights to remind them their high beams are on, but don't leave your high beams on to "get back" at them if they fail to lower them down.  Instead, look just to the right of them and try not to look directly into their headlights.

Also, never use your high beams while driving behind another car. For those that don't have a auto dimming or night setting switch on the rearview mirror, you can move your rearview mirror to reflect light backwards to alert the driver his/her high beams are on or  to get the reflection away from your eyes. 

All states have laws requiring you to dim your high-beam headlights whenever there is a risk of blinding other drivers. The exact distance varies from state-to-state, but typically, high beam headlights must  not be used within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle or within 200 to 300 feet of another vehicle you're following behind. 

Back Off!!! Don’t tailgate.

While it’s never a good idea to follow too closely to another vehicle anytime, it should clearly be avoided during night time driving as well as bad weather. There are several good reasons for this.

1)   You make the other driver nervous, which makes him or her more likely to react badly to something in the road and

       cause a wreck.

​2)   The closer your headlights are, the brighter they can seem and more distracting they can be. Again, this makes the driver ahead of you nervous and can also limit his or her visibility and end up causing problems.​ 

3)

During night hours, your visibility to see in front of the car in front of you is lessened. During the day, you can see beyond the vehicle you are following behind and can react better to things that may be a problem ahead on the road or off to the side. With limited sight distance, you are setting yourself up to encountering a problem. 

4)   Backing off from someone else’s rear also gives you a way to regulate your speed. As a rule, you should drive at slower speeds during the evening hours as opposed to the daylight hours. Backing off will enable you to monitor this. 

Watch for those Glowing Eyes.

Obviously, animals (and humans!) are harder to see when driving at night. But some animals are also more active during the evening. When driving after dark, you may encounter certain nocturnal animals like raccoons and opossums, so pay special attention to the road ahead and periodically scan for animals. Most accidents involving animals happen at night or very early in the morning. This is especially true with deer, which can cause more serious damage.

Remember that even your high beams will fail to illuminate much beyond your stopping distance, so avoiding a deer or other animals takes a particular skill: Catching their eyes reflecting from your head lights. Those tiny bright orbs (spots) often appear far down the road, giving you more time to slow down or come to a stop. The best strategy if you don’t have the skill to deal with the situation, especially when it’s a larger animal, is to slow down as quickly as you can without exiting your lane or driving off the road. Deer will often follow your headlights and move in front of you, so swerving can increase the likelihood of an accident.

Here’s what I researched to be the normal recommendation and process to insure a claim with the insurance company. Statistically, thousands of people are injured and many deaths occur when people either strike or try to avoid striking an animal.

 

The recommendation is almost always better to hit an animal in the roadway, rather than trying to swerve to avoid it. It will certainly do damage to your vehicle, and nobody wants to hurt an animal (especially if it’s a pet), but swerving is no guarantee that you’ll miss the animal, and creates a much more dangerous situation for everyone. Hold your lane, keep the wheel straight, and apply the brakes as firmly as possible while still maintaining control.

After striking the animal, it’s best to pull over as soon as you can safely do so. Check for damage and call your insurance company. Insurance companies are usually a bit suspicious of claims on animal strikes, because the evidence is long gone when the driver reports it. To avoid any issues with your insurance company, call them from the scene of the accident.

 

They may or may not want you to call the police to file a police report. In order to cover yourself, it’s best to report any accident with an animal to your insurance company from the scene of the accident or call the police so you can document it. It’s just another reason you shouldn’t swerve to miss an animal. If you end up crashing and the animal runs off, it’s very hard for you to prove why you crashed.

If you follow this, I recommend you also do the following:

 

  • Get good contact information from any eyewitness that can’t wait for the police to arrive.

  • Take clear pictures of the area of impact or damage on the vehicle, especially if there are any traces of blood or animal hair in the event the animal ran off.

Squeaky Clean.

    Windshields can look clean during the day but at night time, may reveal streaks that can cause glare. As much as possible, avoid touching with your hands or fingers the inside surfaces of the windshield, side windows and your rearview mirror. Oil from your skin will smear, and light will glare when it shines through any place where you touched the glass.

 

Overtime using defrost, vent or A/C mode can cause a haze build up on the glass too. Keep a cotton or microfiber cloth tucked away inside your vehicle to use to wipe away as best you can smudge marks if you don’t have a cleaner. A detailer's trick: polish glass with newspaper to remove residue too if you don’t have a glass cleaner.

    Don’t neglect the mirrors. Dirty mirrors are just like a dirty windshield and can reflect or distort light that distracts the driver. Dirty mirrors can reflect light from cars behind you in a wider, diffused shape that can produce glare in your eyes, so keep them clean.

 

To avoid too much light glare interference, try aiming your side mirrors slightly downward this way you can see the cars behind you by tilting your head slightly forward but when you tilt back to level position you keep the other cars headlights out of your eyes. 

Be Alert! Keep those Eyes Moving.

The best way to avoid an incident at night is to be watching for lights, movement and keep checking those mirrors. It’s important to keep an eye out for other cars’ headlights as it is to spot other things like animals on the side of the road or debris that could already be present or become a problem.

 

Stay alert by checking mirrors regularly enough to be aware of what is happening all around you. That also means being at the top of your game for defensive driving skills. Sometimes, especially at night, it’s more about watching for other driver’s mistakes than having to worry about your own.

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