Driving at Night
Most of us are still commuting in the dark and this is the time when road users are particularly vulnerable, especially on unlit rural roads.
According to a recent Department for Transport study just 15% of vehicle miles are driven between 7 pm and 7 am, but during that time around a third of all road injuries and deaths take place.
Leaving aside the issue of fatigue, if you drive when your body clock says you should be asleep, the most obvious hazard is reduced vision and being blinded by the lights of oncoming traffic.
These can attract your eyes like a moth to a lightbulb, leaving you dazzled afterwards and in those vital seconds, whilst your eyes readjust, you could easily hit an obstacle such as a cyclist, miss a junction or misjudge a bend and run wide.
One study showed that a 65 year old might need up to nine seconds to recover full vision after being temporarily blinded by glare.
This is a growing problem with the increasing number of SUVs on the roads as their headlamps are set higher and more likely to shine directly into your eyes. One very effective tip is to look as far ahead as possible for anything like a cyclist or a road sign while you still can and then focus on the left hand kerb, just for a couple of seconds or so, while the oncoming car passes. You will be amazed at how much more quickly your eyes adjust afterwards.
Assuming there is nothing else following it on the other side of the road it helps to switch your headlights back to main beam as soon as possible to shine more light into your path.
Glare comes both ways of course and remember that your mirror can be dipped with that little switch on the back if a vehicle behind is dazzling you.
DO’S and DON’T’S when driving at night on unlit roads.
- DO focus on the left hand kerb just before an oncoming vehicle dazzles you.
- DO go back to main beam headlights as soon as it is safe.
- DO dip your mirror if the headlights of the vehicle behind you are too bright.
- DON’T keep slowing down and speeding up in response to your vision being affected by other road users; it will annoy following drivers and can be dangerous.