The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 50 percent of car crashes happen once the sun has gone down. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development reports more fatal crashes between 7 p.m. – 6 a.m. than any other time of the day. It’s easy to see why driving at night is more dangerous. There’s a clear lack of visibility, drunk drivers are more frequent, it’s easy to feel more fatigued at night, and lights can temporarily blind motorists at night.
Even though we only do a quarter of our driving at night, it does pose additional risks than driving during the day. As we head into winter, the days get shorter, which means a lot of drivers are on the roads at night during a naturally busy time of day. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to limit the dangers of nighttime driving. Here’s how to help keep yourself—and others—safe on the road after dark.
How to Combat the Darkness When Driving
As we “fall back” to shorter days, take extra precautions when you’re out on the road. These tips for safe driving at night can help.
- Clear your windshield: Dirty windows and mirrors can increase the glare of headlights and streetlights significantly. One of the most common reasons for night driving risks is the clear lack of visibility. Even with high-beam headlights on, drivers are only able to see about 500 feet (250 feet for normal headlights), which means there’s less time to react to something crossing your path.
- Check your lights: Darkness impacts your vision and can create glare by the occasional street lamp or high beam, which means it’s nearly impossible to see things in your way until it’s too late. When driving at night, you need all the help you can get to enhance visibility and signal your intentions to other drivers. That means you should regularly test all of your lights.
- Don’t drive drowsy: Before getting behind the wheel at night, make sure you’re awake and alert enough to drive safely. Once it gets dark outside, our circadian rhythm signals to our body that it’s time for rest. If a motorist is fighting that signal at night, it’s more dangerous for them to be on the road. According to the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety, fatigue may be responsible for as many as a fifth of all fatal accidents. And it goes without saying that a person is more likely to be drowsy at night.
- Drive defensively: You can encounter dangerous drivers at any time of day. But at night, the risks skyrocket. More drunk drivers are driving at night and the NHTSA has the data to back that up. In some cases, fatal crashes are four times more likely to happen at night than during the day. So if you’re out after dark, be on guard for human hazards on the road.
- Slow down: If you drive too fast, there may not be time to stop before colliding with a vehicle, object, or animal. To avoid this, go slower than you would during the day, even if that means staying a little below the speed limit on some roads.
- Know where to look: Even with clean windshields, the glare of oncoming headlights can still blind you. It’s easy for drivers to be temporarily blinded at night because of the difference between light and dark for our eyes. A split second of being blinded by a high beam or a streetlight is all it takes for a collision to occur. To avoid this, never look directly at the lights. In some cases, even looking straight ahead can be dangerous. Instead, it’s often best to shift your gaze down and to the right so you can use the lane marking or edge of the road as a guide until the bright lights have passed.
- Watch for wildlife: Far more wild animals are active at night than during the day, and virtually any critter leaping out in front of your car can easily lead to an accident.
- Watch for pedestrians and cyclists: Ideally, anyone walking or biking at night should be wearing highly visible or reflective clothing. But there’s no guarantee of this, so keep your eyes peeled for anyone who hasn’t taken proper precautions.
What to do if you’ve been in an accident at night
There’s no going around it, driving at night is the most dangerous time to drive. And it doesn’t matter if the road is familiar or not. By protecting against the unique dangers that come with driving at night, you can help make the road a safer place. However, no matter how careful you are, accidents can still happen. If you wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.