There are many animals that see better in the dark and are more active at night. However, humans are not nocturnal and their eyesight is worse in the dark, so it is no surprise that driving at night is more dangerous. In the sunnier and drier weather of summer, many people are more inclined to take roads trips that involve night driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the risk of being involved in a fatal car accident is three times higher at night compared with daylight hours. To reduce the risk of an accident when driving at night, drivers should follow these safety tips.
Reduce glare. The basic step of keeping the windshield and mirrors clean can greatly improve night-time visibility. Smudges and smears on the windshield are not so noticeable during the day, but as soon as it is dark and oncoming headlights hit a dirty windshield, the resulting glare can make it extremely difficult to see the road clearly. Drivers should make sure the car always has enough windshield fluid to clean away summer bugs and pollen. Cleaning time can be cut down by remembering to always use a cloth to clean inside the windshield and mirrors. Wiping away condensation or anything else with a hand can leave a residue of the body’s natural oils that leave a smear on the glass. Dirty mirrors also produce glare that can be blinding. When cleaning mirrors, motorists should be sure to readjust the angle afterwards for a clear view.
Illuminate the pathway. Keeping headlights and taillights clean is a must for night driving. It illuminates the car’s path as well as letting other motorists know of the car’s presence. The NHTSA reports that dirty or damaged headlights cast glare onto oncoming drivers and decrease general visibility. There are special cleaning kits available for headlights that drivers can use to do regular maintenance themselves. It is also important for headlights to be angled correctly for maximum illumination of the road and minimal glare for drivers on the other side of the road. This adjustment should be made by a professional.
Use high beams wisely. High beams can improve visibility markedly, especially on rural roads with no streetlamps. Although many people do not think to use their high beams, others use them indiscriminately, often blinding oncoming drivers. High beams should be used when there are no oncoming vehicles and never when driving behind another vehicle. Many of the newest cars have adaptive lighting that automatically adjusts the high beams based on the presence of other cars.
Drive defensively. After dark, the rate of alcohol-impaired car accidents rises dramatically, especially in the summer. Accidents caused by inexperienced teen drivers also happen more frequently in the summer months when students are out of school. It is best to try to avoid driving during the late hours of the night if possible, but those who must be out on the roads at night should be vigilant about leaving enough stopping distance between vehicles, wearing a seat belt, watching out for bicyclists and pedestrians, and avoiding any distractions while driving so that full attention can be given to operating the vehicle safely.
Drive well rested. Drowsy driving becomes an issue at night when the brain starts producing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. The NHTSA reports that most drowsy driving accidents happen between the hours of midnight and six in the morning. Staying hydrated, getting a good night’s rest, and getting fresh air into the car are all ways to stay alert when driving at night. Drivers who cannot keep their eyes open should pull over immediately and rest before continuing their journey.
Drive slowly and follow speed limits. At night when visibility is an issue, more time is needed to react to unexpected obstacles. During the summer months, the likelihood of encountering a pedestrian, cyclist, or motorcyclist is higher and they are much less visible in darkness. Headlights can illuminate only a certain amount of space, on average around 160 feet, and a car traveling 40 miles per hour needs 190 feet to come to a stop. NHTSA statistics show that 37 percent of nighttime-driving fatalities are related to speeding compared with 21 percent during daytime.
Adjust inside lighting. Dashboard lighting should be dimmed for night driving. If it is too bright, it is difficult for the eyes to adjust quickly from brightly lit dials on the dashboard to the dark road. The overhead visor can be used to shield from bright streetlamps and glare. Drivers should adjust the rear view mirror so that headlights from cars to the rear are not blinding. Some new cars are equipped with technology that dims mirrors reflecting bright light. Passengers should not use the indoor cabin lighting because it can be distracting for other drivers.
Maintain good eye health. Drivers are responsible for their own health and safety. An annual vision checkup is part of maintaining healthy eyes, and good vision is essential for safe driving. Often the first problem that many people encounter with their eyes is difficulty seeing at night. This may be easily fixed with a new prescription. In many states, older drivers are required to renew their license in person and take a vision test.
Look at the road and away from bright lights. This tip can help drivers maintain their focus on the road. The bright lights of other vehicles or road signs can be distracting and disorienting. By shifting the eyes downward toward the road and to the right, the right edge of the road or the lane markings can be used to stay on track. Drivers should never look into the oncoming headlights of another car.
Check the weather and the calendar before starting a night drive. Night driving is riskier than day driving, and inclement weather and time of year can increase the risk of an accident even more. Snow, ice, fog, severe thunderstorms, and heavy rain can all dramatically reduce visibility for night drivers and impact braking and acceleration. Hydroplaning and fishtailing can be a problem when the surface of the road floods with water.
Certain times of year are statistically worse for nighttime accidents, including Christmas and New Year’s. In the summertime, drivers should be aware that the major holidays, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day, are all associated with high rates of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents, especially in the late night and early morning hours. Vacations bring more drivers out onto the roads, thereby increasing the risk of an accident.
Additional tips for night driving include the following:
- Drivers should keep an eye out for nocturnal animals crossing the road. It is important to make note of signage indicating animals in the area and look for the eye shine of animals as the road is scanned. Most accidents that involve animals happen during nighttime hours.
- Motorists should check and double-check blind spots for other vehicles before changing lanes. Extra caution should be used when a motorcycle is nearby.
- Drivers and passengers must always wear a seat belt.
- Motorists should obey the reduced speed limits when entering a construction zone.
- Drivers should be prepared and keep emergency safety supplies in the car, including those for nighttime emergencies such as flares, reflective safety vests, and flashlights. Injuries and fatalities can occur when a car on the shoulder is not sufficiently visible and another vehicle hits it from behind.
- Motorists should perform regular vehicle maintenance checks to avoid a breakdown during night drives and to ensure the car will be reliable under adverse driving conditions. This includes checking tire treads and inflation levels, oil and engine fluids, brakes, and battery.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Advocate for Injured Victims of Negligent Drivers
Drivers and their passengers are more at risk when out on the road at night. If you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of another party, contact the experienced Freehold car accident lawyers at Ellis Law. Since 1988, we have been representing injured clients and helping them get the compensation they deserve. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Marlboro Township, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.