The nights may be getting shorter but driving after dark remains the deadliest time on America’s roadways. According to the National Safety Council, although only 25% of all driving is done after the sun goes down, traffic fatalities are three times higher. Since the goal here is to help you get the cheapest car insurance and the best way to do that is to avoid accident claims, here are some night driving tips for safe driving after dark.
To paraphrase Dirty Harry, a driver’s got to know his limitations. You are not a jungle cat: your ability to see after dark diminishes significantly; you lose your ability to distinguish color and contrast; your depth perception and peripheral vision tank. And it gets worse as you get older. A 50-year-old driver can need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. That’s why the American Optometric Association recommends that you have your eyes examined with increasing frequency as you age. If the eye doc says your need glasses for night driving (or any driving), heed the advice.
You’re only as good as the car you’re driving. Make sure your headlights are properly aligned so that you can see the road from the right angle and to spare other drivers from glare. Check your mirrors before every trip to eliminate blind spots. See that your tail lights, brake lights and turn indicators in good working order. Regularly clean headlamps, tail lights, mirrors and windshield (inside and out) to increase visibility. Dimming the lights on your instrument panel will also help increase your night vision.
Drive defensively. You can be the world’s most conscientious driver but that won’t protect you from others who aren’t. Increase your odds of arriving at your destination safely by decreasing your speed and increasing the distance between you and the car ahead by about four to five seconds. Don’t over-drive your headlights and allow yourself extra room to stop. Give wide berth to anyone who appears to be drunk or impaired. Avoid looking directly into the high beams of an oncoming car as it can take several seconds to recover from the temporary blindness caused by the glare; avert your gaze to the right side and follow your lane marking.
Drive with courtesy. Use your high beams when it’s safe but dim them when you’re within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or a car up ahead of you. Make it easier for others to see you. Turn your regular headlights on for an hour before dark and keep them on for an hour after dawn. Use your turn indicators!
Pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, roadway debris, stray animals and wildlife are harder to see at night. Keep in mind those night driving tips mentioned above.