While it shouldn’t preoccupy our thoughts as we’re pulling out of the driveway, many people don’t realize driving is often the riskiest thing they do each day. It’s even more dangerous at night.
According to the National Safety Council, traffic deaths are three times greater at night. There are many factors for this, including increased animal activity and higher numbers of impaired drivers, but I’d rather focus on what drivers can do to keep their cars in one piece and stay safe.
It goes without saying the majority of driving involves using our eyes, and constantly looking for threats and opportunities is critical to safe driving. Driving at night puts an even higher premium on good eye techniques.
A favorite term used by one of our advanced-driver-training instructors is “perception-reaction time.” This is the time it takes to react based on what your eyes are seeing. Perception-reaction time for a new teen or younger driver is approximately 1 to 1.5 seconds. Perception-reaction time increases as we get older and can be significantly higher for a senior driver. With this in mind, older drivers should be especially careful at night.
If you have any concerns with your vision, especially at night, consult an eye professional. Get glasses if you need to, and consider anti-glare coating for the lenses. Many people need glasses for night driving only, so don’t be reluctant to look into this option.
Other night-driving tips:
- Keep the windshield clean, inside and out. This will greatly reduce glare from headlights of oncoming cars, taillights in front of you and streetlights.
- Make sure windshield wipers are in good condition.
- Proper headlight adjustment and clear headlight lenses are crucial. Invest in new headlights rather than the many restoration solutions and techniques that are available.
- Watch for deer and other animals, especially in rural areas. Don’t fixate on the one deer you can see—look for the four, five or six you don’t see.
- Take the longer route if it offers better streetlighting and lower speeds.
- Watch for fatigue, and don’t drive impaired.
Lastly, if you’re really worried about driving at night, don’t. The increased anxiety could take focus away from the task at hand. Have a friend or family member drive, take a cab or schedule driving for daylight hours only.