From the time the sun sets until the time that it rises again in the morning, anyone who has to head out on the road will be driving in extreme darkness with very limited light available. Any time you have to drive without an adequate amount of lighting, there will be different difficulties you will have to face than you would when driving during the day time in optimal lighting. Everything looks different when it is dark, and there are a variety of reasons for this such as our eyes dilating differently in the dark than they do in the light and the reflecting glare of lights surrounding us. Because everything looks different when it is dark outside, drivers’ perceptions of the road and their reactions are different when driving at night than they are when driving during the day. Here are a few tips you can use to help improve your safety when driving on the road at night.
Take care of your vision and use it carefully on the road
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), our pupils dilate more in the dark than they do in the light in order to pull in more light. Then, our eyes have rods and cones that process the light that has been pulled in. Rods are only able to see black and white but are more sensitive in the dark than they are in the light. On the other hand, cones rely on bright lights to process all other colors and to make out specific visual details. Because of this, when you are driving in the darkness your eyes will be relying on rods more than cones, which means most of what you will be able to see will be in black and white.
Additionally, the AAO points out that there are many people who are challenged with nearsightedness, particularly at night, which can cause objects on the road to be less clear and sharp than what they would look like during the day. This can also cause you to have more difficulty with your peripheral vision and make it harder to accurately perceive depth of objects.
Despite all the difficulties driving at night can present with your vision, there are still some things you can do to make driving in the dark less difficult. The first thing you should do is dim your interior lights on your vehicle’s dashboard low enough to where they are still visible but not distracting. Likewise, if the person driving behind you is driving with their high beam lights on, or they have brighter than usual headlights, adjust your rearview mirror in a way that will prevent the light from reflecting back you’re your eyes. Doing these two things should help improve your nighttime vision. You also should be paying close attention to anything on the road in the distance in order to ensure you are clearly seeing upcoming obstacles. Finally, you should also make sure you are keeping up with regular vision checkups. The AAO recommends adults under the age of 65 have their vision checked every two years, while any one over the age of 65 should have their vision checked every year. If you do need prescription glasses, the National Safety Council (NSC) points out that they should have anti-reflective lenses as well.
Use light wisely
Of course, when you are driving in the dark you want to take advantage of any light you can. But sometimes lights in the nighttime darkness can hurt you just as much as they help. To make sure you are using light wisely, adjust your headlights so they are properly aimed. Doing this will not only improve your visibility but will also help other drivers around you by not causing a distraction. You will also need to make sure you are not becoming distracted by the headlights of any other driver or other lights on the road. To do this, avoid looking directly at the lights or staring at them for too long.
Keep it clean
Keeping your headlights and mirrors properly adjusted and clean of any excess dirt and debris will help ensure you are getting the maximum visibility at all times. If you notice the plastic covering over your headlights have become foggy or are fading, you can use a store-bought headlight polishing kit to thoroughly clean them and regain a clear focus for your headlights. You should also make sure to keep your windshield and all other windows clear of clutter inside your vehicle and clean on both the inside and outside of the window. According to Popular Mechanics, using a newspaper to clean your windows will help remove streaks that would otherwise affect your visibility in the dark. Finally, keep all the mirrors clean and adjust them to where you have clear visibility, but aim them downward slightly if possible, to avoid becoming distracted by the headlights of other vehicles around you.
This one should be obvious, but it is easy to become distracted or drowsy when driving at night. When driving at night it is best to eliminate as many distractions as possible, even if it’s as simple as turning down the radio. However, using the radio can also help you stay awake. The National Sleep Foundation recommends staying off the road between midnight and 6 a.m. when possible and taking breaks to rest at least every two hours when on longer trips. You should also slow down when driving at night to compensate for your reduced visibility. Finally, remain aware of other drivers on the road and ensure you are always following other vehicles at a safe distance and use your low beam lights when there is oncoming traffic or if you are behind another vehicle to keep your lights from distracting them.