Driving in the dark is much more demanding than driving in the daytime as visibility is reduced, making it harder for motorists to spot any obstacles or sharp turns in the road. In fact, road casualty statistics from the Department for Transport show that drivers are 40% more likely to be involved in a road traffic accident during the hours of darkness.
New drivers and those who prefer to avoid nighttime motoring are at the highest risk. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together some practical tips to help you stay safe when driving in the dark.
If you’re planning to drive when you would normally be sleeping, make sure you’re well rested first. Tiredness is one of the main causes of road traffic casualties at night, and accounts for 20% of all serious road accidents in the UK. Plan your journey in advance and make time for regular stops at service stations. Taking a 15-minute break from driving and drinking a good cup of coffee will help to keep drowsiness at bay, but remember, the only cure for tiredness is a proper sleep.
Before setting off, make sure that all your car’s lights are working properly. It’s not only illegal to drive without fully functioning front and rear lights, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Use full beam when you need to, but remember to switch it off when other vehicles are approaching.
Poor visibility at night means that the distance you can see is shortened, and things can seem to appear on the road out of nowhere. Stick to a speed that will allow you to brake and manoeuvre to avoid a hazard if necessary.
Keeping all of your car windows and mirrors clean will reduce glare and improve visibility. Try not to touch them with your hands, as the oil from your skin can cause smears that aren’t visible during the day, but could cause light to glare when it shines through at night.
Although your vision is tested as part of your practical driving test, your eyesight can worsen over time without you noticing. Drivers need to provide evidence of an eyesight test to the DVLA when they reach age 75, and vision checks are encouraged once every two years from the age of 60. However, because eyesight can deteriorate over time, often without noticeable symptoms, experts suggest that drivers have their eyes tested once every two years.
Young and novice drivers are at higher risk of being involved in a road collision at night, so it’s clear that experience plays a huge part in improving nighttime driving skills. If you’ve just passed your test, consider taking the Pass Plus training course, which will help you to become more comfortable driving at night, as well as in various other conditions not covered in the ordinary driving test (such as driving in adverse weather conditions, on rural roads and motorways). It may seem like an expense at first, but successfully completing the course could lead to a car insurance discount.