Driving at night can be risky, but you can control many of the factors that influence your safety when you’re hitting the road in the dark. By staying aware of the most common nighttime driving hazards, you can address them before an accident happens.
1. Driving Under the Influence
You can’t control whether other drivers drink and drive, but you can control your own actions. If you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs, just don’t hit the road, even for short distances–it’s not worth it. Even certain prescription medications can greatly impact your ability to drive safely; read the labels of your medications and talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether you should be driving when you’re taking them.
2. Driving While Tired
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, as many as 37% of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel; 60% admitted to driving while very tired. These are sobering numbers, especially considering that a sleep-deprived driver isn’t much safer than a tipsy one. If you’re sleepy, either take a nap before you drive or call a friend, a taxi, or an Uber to help you out.
3. Low Visibility
Perhaps the most obvious problem with driving at night is the fact that it’s dark. Even if you have perfect vision, it’s harder to see at night–and for many adults, especially those over the age of 60, impaired night vision poses an even bigger challenge. To combat low visibility, make sure you have a current prescription for eyeglasses or contacts. If you wear glasses, opt for the anti-reflective coating that helps reduce glare. Make sure your headlights are bright, clear, and adjusted correctly. And polish your windshield and mirrors to a streak-free shine with a newspaper or microfiber cloth to reduce glare.
4. Wandering Wildlife
At night, many nocturnal animals venture near roads they’d normally stay away from during the daytime. And they can become fascinated or even drawn to bright lights–like your headlights. Not a great combination for the critters or your trip. Keep an eye out for the eyes of animals both small and large on or beside the road ahead. If you see those telltale pinpricks of light, slow down as quickly as you safely can. Stay in your lane; don’t swerve into another lane or off the road.
5. Unfamiliar Territory
Navigating unfamiliar roads can be particularly challenging in the dark. If you don’t know an area well, try to plan your route to avoid back roads and aim for well-lit, well-traveled areas. Consult a map before you leave and memorize your route beforehand so you’re not trying to consult a map or your phone while driving. And be on the constant lookout for cars, pedestrians, or bikes approaching from hidden side streets or other road entrances you might not realize are there.
6. Other Drivers!
National statistics show that between the times of 10 PM – 4 AM you are 3-4 times more likely to encounter one or more of the above in another vehicle – so best to stay clear!
Still not confident driving at night? Then don’t. Plan your errands for the daytime and make it a point to have someone else drive if you have to be somewhere when it’s dark outside. It’s worth the extra trouble to make sure you and the other drivers on the road with you to stay safe.