Long, dark winter nights mean decreased visibility and increased danger when you're on the road.
Despite nighttime driving accounting for just 23 percent of vehicle miles traveled, more than 50 percent of fatalities for vehicle occupants 16 and older occur between the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. timeframe, according to the National Safety Commission (NSC).
Even if you think your driving doesn’t change from day to night, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of night driving and how to combat them.
Understanding the Dangers of Night Driving
- Diminished vision. You may not notice, but your eyes work differently at different times of the day no matter how old or young you are. At night, your peripheral vision is actually slightly improved, but you have trouble focusing on objects ahead of you. Traveling between well-lit and darker areas is also an issue.
- Driving too fast for your headlights. You can’t see as far ahead of you at night as you can during the day. By the time you see something dangerous on the road, it may be too late to avoid it.
- Impaired judgment. Whether due to drowsiness or the use of alcohol or drugs, it appears that drivers at night often don’t make sound decisions. According to the NSC, 66 percent of fatalities at night involve drivers and occupants who weren’t wearing seat belts.
Erring on the Side of Caution
Sometimes, there’s no other option except to get on the road when it’s still dark. So here are some tips to help you make it a safe trip.
- Make sure all of your lights are in good working condition. Not just headlights, but turn signals, taillights, etc.
- Avoid tailgating. Leave a bigger cushion between you and other cars than you would during the day.
- Stay focused. Don’t use your phone, mess around with the radio or search for something you dropped no matter what time of the day it is, and remember that distracted driving is especially dangerous at night.
Of course, if you find you’re not comfortable driving at night, don't do it under any circumstance. Instead ask for a ride from someone you trust or wait until the daytime.