The dangers of nighttime driving is a huge public safety issue in America. On average, about 50% of all fatal car crashes occur at night. This is the case despite the fact that there are significantly fewer drivers on the road during these hours than during the day. Nighttime automobile accidents are four times more fatal than crashes that occur during the day.
Preventing these crashes starts with driver education. Safely driving after dark requires modified driving techniques and special attention to your surroundings. To help explain, we’ve put together these important tips for driving at night.
It is a good idea to slow down by 5-10 mph when driving at night, even if you are driving on a familiar road. The reason is reduced visibility. When driving in the dark, especially in a poorly lit area, it’s difficult to make out oncoming hazards. The faster you are going, the less time you have to react to an obstacle, like a pedestrian stepping off the curb.
Even with headlights, nighttime visibility is a big problem. The average car headlights illuminate about 200 ft in front of the vehicle. Everything beyond that is typically too dark to see. If you are traveling at 45 mph, you would only have about three seconds to identify a hazard in the road and react to it before colliding with it. The slower you drive, the more time you have to both identify these obstacles and avoid them.
Bright light sources are especially dangerous when driving at night. Normally, your eyes dilate in darkness, granting you limited night vision. However, a sudden, intense light source (like a car with its brights on turning a corner) can cause your eyes to contract. Your eyes may need up to 10 minutes to readjust. Additionally, this intense light can make it extremely difficult to see for a few seconds, which increases the risk of a crash. For that reason, you should avoid looking directly at an approaching car’s headlights when driving at night.
Likewise, it is a good idea to turn down your dashboard brightness and make sure your phone is out of sight when driving in the dark. The sudden flash of light from a notification can have a similar effect to looking at another car’s headlights, and it may take longer to regain your focus as the light source is much closer to you.
Before setting off for a late-night drive, it’s wise to put your phone in “do not disturb” mode so you won’t be caught off guard. If you need your phone for GPS directions, you might try putting the brightness as low as possible so your eyes will stay adjusted to the dark and/or to enable voice guidance.
You are much more likely to encounter fatigued or intoxicated drivers at night. If you see another driver presenting signs of careless or reckless driving, increase your following distance and make use of defensive driving techniques, anticipating what you should do if they make a wrong decision.
If a driver is swerving, making unsafe maneuvers, or if you otherwise suspect they are a danger to themselves or others, you may want to contact police and report a potentially intoxicated driver. The sooner you report an unsafe driver, the better the odds of preventing a potentially fatal crash.
At the same time, you also need to be aware of your own limitations. If you feel tired or if you are struggling to stay awake at the wheel, it’s time to pull over. Trying to fight your body’s tiredness response will only increase your risk of causing a serious wreck.
To schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Walnut Creek personal injury attorney from Casper, Meadows, Schwartz & Cook, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at (925) 275-5592 or send us an email.