Night Driving and Safety: What You Need To Know
While there are some people diagnosed with a condition known as night blindness, you can have 20/20 vision and still have trouble seeing well at night. If there’s no way for you to avoid night driving, remember these strategies for maintaining your safety whenever you get behind the wheel after dusk.
Don’t Look at Lights
If you’ve ever been in a car at night – even as a passenger – you’ve likely experienced the temporary blindness that can come from looking at a passing vehicle’s headlights. While your eyes may naturally be drawn to bright lights shining in the darkness, train yourself to focus on the road ahead of you instead of oncoming headlights. Choosing to drive in the far right lane can also put you farther away from oncoming lights, making it a little easier to avoid looking directly at them.
When you find yourself in a situation where the driver behind you is blasting you with their high beams, remember that your rearview mirror is adjustable. In fact, some vehicles have rearview mirrors that can be adjusted away from someone’s high beams with the flick of a switch. If you have this option available, use it instead of allowing the person behind you to blind you.
Watch out for Animals
Depending on the part of the country you’re driving through, there may be a higher probability of animals crossing roads at night. Since many animals are masters of blending into the shadows at the side of the road, train yourself to scan the area for light reflected from an animal’s retinas. This may give you more time to avoid a collision than if you don’t see the animal until it steps in front of your vehicle.
Since night driving is inherently riskier than driving during the day, it’s advisable to travel at much lower speeds than you would in broad daylight. While accidentally hitting a skunk won’t cause serious damage to your vehicle, hitting a larger animal with a higher center of gravity – like a deer or moose – can be disastrous, as they’re more likely to come through the windshield and hit you than they are to go under the tires. Driving slowly enough to avoid this type of accident is the best way to stay safe.
Keep Your Car Clean
Unfortunately, any accumulation of road grime or bug slime on your windshield, mirrors or windows can create a hazard at night. Once light from oncoming motorists or overhead streetlight hits something on your windshield, it can cause a serious glare. Even if it didn’t make it difficult to see when the sun is out, consider washing your windows before prolonged night driving commutes.
Since drive-thru carwashes and the window-washing equipment you’ll find at gas stations can leave terrible streaks on glass, consider carrying a supply of old newspapers in your trunk. Many professional car detailers finish off glass with a quick scrub from a newspaper to help get rid of any glare-producing streaks their other cloths and sponges might leave behind.