Winter is well and truly upon us and with the colder temperatures come shorter days. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 40% of all accidents occur in the dark. So, whether you’re driving to work at 7am or picking up the kids at 4pm, chances are you’ll encounter dark roads and high beams. Prepare yourself with our top 10 safety tips for driving in the dark.
1. Allow time for your journey
With the added hazards that come with night driving, it’s wise to give yourself ample time to make your journey. Drive at a speed that will give you plenty of time to react in the event of any unexpected incidents. You could also consider using a satellite navigation system if you’re driving somewhere new in order to concentrate on the road ahead rather than road signs.
2. Check your lights
It may seem obvious but checking that your lights are in working order is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself and other road users safe. Make sure they’re all functioning well (it’s illegal to drive with faulty lights, after all) and have any bulbs changed as soon as possible.
Once the sun sets, it’s wise to use dipped headlights to ensure that you’re seen but don’t dazzle other drivers. When driving on unlit country roads, switch to full beam but be sure to dip them again if you encounter other road users.
If you notice that you have problems when driving, it would be a wise idea to get your sight checked. Many drivers first notice that their eyesight has deteriorated when they struggle to read road signs because of glare from other cars.
3. Don’t drive tired
A study by the Sleep Research Centre showed that up to 20% of all accidents are caused by driver fatigue, which is almost as many as caused by drink driving. If your journey is long and you start to feel sleepy, stop and have a break at the services and if you’re only driving a short way, keep a snack in your car to give you an additional energy boost.
4. Don’t stare at oncoming vehicles
Avoid looking directly at the headlights of oncoming vehicles. The glare from lights, particularly full beam, can lead to brief vision impairment which is startling when driving. Look to the left-hand side of the road or focus on the white lines marking the edge of the road if you can.
5. Keep windows clean
Dirty windows can make driving in the dark hazardous. Condensation inside the car windows and dirt outside can cause a film which could increase glare from vehicles. Before you set off, be sure to give your windows a clean to aid visibility.
6. Expect the unexpected
The darkness limits your vision, so keep an extra eye out for cyclists, children and vulnerable adults at this time of year. Be extra vigilant in residential areas or close to schools and always keep to the speed limit so that you have time to react in the event that someone does step into the road. If you’re driving through the countryside, beware of animals that could pop out from the undergrowth and stay on guard for unexpected movements.
7. Keep a safe distance between cars
It’s always important to keep a safe distance between cars but never more so than when driving at night. If there aren’t chevrons on the road, adopt the two-second rule and stay two seconds from the driver in front. This has been shown to reduce accidents as it provides ample breaking time.
8. Choose a well-lit route
Of course, you won’t always know the route that you’re driving but if you’ve travelled it before and happen to know that there are no streetlights, consider using an alternative route.
9. Practice night driving
If you’re a new or inexperienced driver, then night driving may be alien to you. Most driving schools will provide specific evening driving lessons to enable people to become more comfortable with driving in the dark.
10. Pack your driving essentials
No one wants to break down, especially at night so it’s an idea to keep a selection of emergency essentials in your boot in case of breakdown. A torch is likely to come in incredibly useful if you ever need to check the engine or change a tyre and a head torch will be even more beneficial. It would also be wise to keep a warm blanket, a portable phone charger and a protein bar or two in case you have a long wait until help arrives.
If you do have problems, aim to stop in a well-lit place and keep your hazard lights on so other vehicles are aware of your presence.
We hope this guide to driving in the dark provides some help as the long winter months stretch out ahead. For more information and guidance, head to our blog. Alternatively, if you’re in the market for a new car, visit our homepage and discover a selection of great motors from top manufacturers.