According to RSA, a whopping 27% of all collisions occur when it’s dark. The main causes are reduced visibility and increased difficulty judging distance and speed.
To help you tackle night-time driving, we’ve put together a list of tips that will keep you and others safe during the evening hours.
Use your lights in the right way
Driving with a faulty bulb is illegal - and that goes for any bulb, not just your headlights.
Make sure you check your car’s lights often, and if you find a faulty bulb, get it fixed as soon as possible. First Stop offers a bulb changing service which includes the removal of your old bulb and fitting the replacement.
It’s also important to use your lights correctly. If your car doesn’t have day-time running lights, turn your dipped headlights on an hour before sunset and keep them on an hour after sunrise. This will ensure you’re always visible to pedestrians and other road users.
Eyes on the road, not oncoming cars!
Hands up if you’ve ever been dazzled by another road user’s headlights? It’s not pleasant and can be dangerous if you lose your vision. Avoid this by looking to the left-hand side of the road and following the white lines to keep you on track. If the glare gets too bad you can’t see, slow down but avoid stopping abruptly as you don’t want to cause an accident with the car behind.
Often, being dazzled is unavoidable. Especially if the oncoming car doesn’t have their headlights aligned correctly. Headlights can slip out of position over time, meaning they’re not focused on the road. It’s important to check your headlights are aligned to ensure you’re projecting the light on the road ahead.
Keep your windows clear and clean
It’s no good aligning your lights and avoiding glare from oncoming vehicles if your windows are dirty. Cleaning your windows before setting off seems like an obvious thing to do, but some motorists forget to do it.
A build-up of condensation can hinder visibility. Added to that, roads can throw up salt and grit that also make it tricky to see.
Driving with a dirty windscreen is dangerous on dry and bright days, but when it’s dark and potentially icy, it’s an accident waiting to happen. Before setting off, make sure you clear any condensation and give your windscreen a good clean. Oh, and check your screenwash to avoid being without it when you need it.
If you’re tired, sleep don’t drive
The risk of falling asleep at the wheel is higher at night. Driving tired makes you a danger to yourself and other road users. In fact, it can be as harmful as drink-driving!
Make sure you’re well-rested before getting behind the wheel, and take regular breaks if your journey is long or through the night. If you start to feel drowsy, pull over and take a break. And remember, caffeine isn’t a substitute for a good night’s rest.
Consider getting your eyes tested
If you’re on the road when day turns into night, driving can be tricky as your eyes have to get used to the fluctuating light conditions. Often, this is when many motorists struggle to see road signs and realise they have an eyesight problem. This can be made worse by the glare from an oncoming vehicle’s headlights, or the streetlights and traffic lights.
If you’re struggling to see at night, the best thing to do is get your eyes tested to check if you need glasses or have the correct prescription. They may recommend an anti-reflection coating on your lenses to reduce glare.
Watch out for cyclists, children and animals
You should always be on the lookout for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, children and the elderly. But this time of year, they are harder to spot — especially in dim lit areas.
Take extra care when driving near schools and in residential areas. Reducing your speed will give you more time to react if someone steps out in front of you.
Cyclists are also less visible in winter, especially if they’re not wearing reflective clothing. If you’re driving on country roads, watch out for animals darting out in front of you too. While you shouldn’t drive much slower than the speed limit, keep your wits about you at all times.
Hone your night-time driving skills
If you’ve never driven in the dark, it might be worth getting some practice in. Whether it’s an evening lesson with your driving instructor, or a Sunday night-time drive when the roads are quieter, experience is valuable.
You can also take an extra driving course from Advanced Driving Ireland. This helps you build up the skills you don’t need to pass your original driving test, such as night-time driving and driving on motorways among others. If you’ve recently passed your driving test and would prefer your first drive in the dark to be with an instructor, Advanced Driving Ireland is a great idea and will help build your confidence.
That concludes our list of tips for driving in the dark. We also recommend every driver be prepared for an emergency by having a torch, a mobile phone, a scraper and de-icer to hand. And if you do break down, find a safe and well-lit place to stop and put on your hazards while you wait for help.