For most people driving at night is just a part of daily life. Whether it’s a late evening at work, dinner out, or your teenager’s football game, driving at night is as common as driving during daylight hours. However, it’s not the same. With the obvious absence of daylight to help you see ahead and around you, there are other changes in your nighttime journey. Knowing the issues to come with night driving, being prepared, and knowing what to do if you are in an accident are all important tools to help you navigate the darker side of driving.
Night Driving Pitfalls
Because your perceived surroundings change during and after sunset, driving at night requires an enhanced set of skills. Knowing the changes and issues that arrive after dark helps you transition seamlessly:
- Glare comes oncoming traffic – look to the right of approaching headlights to prevent temporary blind spots; remember to dim your headlights for oncoming traffic
- Depth perception is limited – don’t pass on a curve or approaching hill; only pass when you have a passing lane or where you are certain there is plenty of distance between you and the approaching vehicles
- Peripheral vision is limited – use all of your mirrors and watch for the shine of the eyes of animals on the sides of the road that may dart out in front of your vehicle
Some of the issues connected with night driving may be easily avoided with personal preparation. Keep your windshield clean and free from streaks and bugs to avoid unnecessary glare. Use appropriate eyewear, including lenses with anti-reflective coating if you are extra sensitive to lights at night. Ensure your gas tank is full in case you get stuck or lost. Know your route. If it’s unfamiliar to you, read ahead on the GPS so you know the main turns and landmarks so you can avoid unnecessary distractions. Never drive when you are tired. The movement of the car, as well as the lights and lines on the road, can easily make you drowsy.
If you do have an accident, follow the important steps to ensure you are being lawful as well as safe. In addition, because it’s at night and you cannot be sure who is in the other vehicle involved, take extra precautions to ensure your safety while you wait for law enforcement. Often after dark, accidents could involve others driving under the influence or involved in other criminal activity.
Remember, if you have an accident, stay at the location where it took place and call 911. Check yourself and your passengers for injuries. Have all of your documentation available for when the police arrive: drivers’ license, proof of insurance, and registration. If you have or feel you need an attorney, consult him right away so he can begin to determine whether you are at fault and what percentage of comparative negligence can be applied to your case.
Help yourself avoid night driving accidents by knowing what to expect after the sun sets. Be personally prepared by doing the little things that can make a big difference when you are driving in the dark. Finally, if an accident happens, do the responsible thing for yourself and others.