How to Drive Safely in Dark Conditions27 February 2020
Driving in the dark can be daunting for some drivers. That’s especially the case in winter, when it’s paired with cold, wet and even icy conditions, which can be tricky to navigate for even the most experienced drivers.
When it comes to staying safe, visibility is one of the most important factors. Drivers should do what they can to see and be seen on the roads. Whether it’s a dark, cold evening in the winter or a late-night summer’s drive, here are some things that you can do to stay a little bit safer on the road.
Night-Time Winter Driving Tips
Stock up your car
Always be prepared for the worst to happen. In case you breakdown, get into an accident or get lost, it’s advisable to keep a kit of useful items. Store this kit in your boot and make
sure it is easily accessible. When and if you use items, remember to restock them as necessary.
Keep the following in your car:
- Ice scraper and de-icers
- Sturdy footwear
- Warm clothing
- Sunglasses for winter sun
- Sat-nav or printed route
- Fully charged phone and charger
- First-aid kit
- Torch and spare batteries
- Jumpstart cables
- Winter driving gloves
- Drinking water
- Non-perishable snacks
- Any medications you may need
Do a quick car safety check-up
Before your journey in the dark, make sure your headlights, taillights and indicator lights are clean and working properly. If necessary, ask a friend to help you check that the exterior lights are working properly. You may also want to take your car to the garage to ensure the headlights are properly aimed. Headlights that are misaligned can blind other drivers and reduce your ability to see the road.
Use your lights appropriately
It’s good practice to turn on your lights an hour before sunset and keep them on an hour after sunrise to be as visible as possible. Before nightfall, your car’s dipped headlights should be on.
You can turn on the full beam headlights when driving on an open road with no vehicles in front of you and no oncoming traffic. To avoid dazzling other drivers, use dipped headlights when around vehicles. Before you set off, make sure you know how to use your car lights correctly.
If you can, dim your dashboard lights to reduce the reflections of streetlights. Avoid using any other light inside your vehicle.
Keep the windows clean
Dirty windows can increase glare, making it much more difficult to see, while dirty headlights can reduce efficiency by as much as 90%. Windscreens are particularly susceptible to steaming up on the inside, especially in cold weather. The car heaters can blow dirty air at the glass, making for a hazy and distracting film.
Make sure to keep headlights free from dirt and debris, and to clean the windows inside and out.
Get your eyes tested
The human eye naturally adjusts to the darkness, but it can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt fully. Driving at night puts strain on our eyes to see more in the dark and handle bright lights from oncoming traffic. When the roads are wet or icy, the reflections can cause us to miss important signs or traffic lights.
Have your eyes checked regularly for problems which can impact your night vision. If you’re experiencing problems with your vision at night, your optician will be able to help. Ensure that you wear your necessary contact lenses or glasses when driving, too. Your optician may recommend an anti-reflection coating on your lenses to reduce glare.
When visibility is reduced, it’s advisable for motorists to reduce their speed. Slowing down is one of the best ways to avoid collisions, especially at night when your vision distance is limited by your headlights.
When there are icy road conditions, you should ease off the accelerator and avoid making sudden movements with the wheel or hard braking. Move slowly over a patch of ice, as hitting it at high speed can cause your vehicle to slip and spin out.
When it’s dark and icy, exercise patience and increase your following distance. You don’t know what’s in front of the vehicle ahead of you, and if they need to stop quickly, you should have plenty of space to react and stop in time. Consider doubling your stopping distance when it’s dark and when there are poor road conditions.
Scan the road ahead of you
Other vehicles, animals, cyclists and pedestrians aren’t as easy to spot when it’s dark outside. Watch out for pedestrians, especially near pubs and clubs around closing time. It can be difficult to spot someone in dark clothing so always be alert and prepared to stop if someone steps out onto the road. In rural areas, watch out for animals that roam once the sun goes down, such as badgers, hedgehogs and foxes. Be vigilant and slow down – even if you know the road well.--