6 Safety tips for driving at night


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Written by
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Licensed Auto Insurance Agent
UPDATED: 2020-10-22T18:07:07.788Z
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A man driving at night following safety tips for nighttime driving.

Car insurance premiums are set based on risks, specifically the risk of accidents. Unsurprisingly, the risk of accidents goes up considerably at night, when it’s harder to see.

As more insurers deploy telematics devices, either through the use of devices or apps for your smartphone, drivers who are on the road in the evenings and at night might see their rates increase. Telematics devices know the time that you’re on the road and the distance traveled, so if you are routinely on the road in the evening, your risk of having an accident increases.

Other risks associated with night driving are driver fatigue, drunk drivers on the road, and increased wild animal activity, especially in rural areas.

There are steps that you can take to lessen your risk of an accident when driving at night. Here are some of the top risks for driving at night and driving tips to reduce your chances of having an accident.

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Driving at night tip #1: Be aware of driver fatigue

The challenge: One of the biggest risks for driving at night is tired drivers. Our bodies are attuned to natural circadian rhythms, and nighttime is when we’re signaled to sleep. Drivers with long commutes or on night shifts are driving after a long work day have the potential to doze off when behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that drowsy driving crashes occur most frequently between the hours of midnight to 6 a.m., and in the late afternoon.

The solution: Clearly, the number one thing you can do to avoid drowsy driving accidents is to get sufficient sleep. You should also review the side effects of any medications that you take, noting any that list drowsiness as a potential factor. If you must drive during the hours listed as the most dangerous for drowsy driving, pay close attention to how you feel and be extra cautious.

Driving at night tip #2: Be mindful of your visibility and glare

The challenge: Reduced visibility due to the fact that it’s dark out is another risk factor for driving at night. There are a few factors to consider that can help to address this problem and improve driving safety.

The solutions:

  1. Have your eyes checked annually: Changes in vision can happen at any time, but glare seems to become increasingly problematic for people as they age. Having your vision checked regularly can help make sure that you’re seeing as clearly as possible when you’re on the road.
  2. Some drivers seek out nonprescription glare-reducing eyewear to help with nighttime driving, but you should talk to your eye doctor before investing in — and trusting — glasses that claim to make driving at night safer, often called nighttime driving glasses. The lenses for this specialized eyewear have a yellow coating, which filters out blue light. Having any tint on eyewear reduces the amount of light entering the eye, reducing visibility. Bottom line: nonprescription glare reduction glasses are controversial, so be careful.
  3. Pay attention to the lighting inside your car: When the interior lights on your dashboard are too bright, the contrast at night can make it hard for your eyes to adjust quickly. If you have the ability to dim your interior dashboard lights, do so when it’s dark out.
  4. Clean your windshield, inside and out: Having a dirty windshield isn’t just an aesthetic problem, it can be dangerous too. Dirt particles, dust, and haze all obstruct your vision and can refract light, increasing glare.

Driving at night tip #3: Check your headlights

The challenge: Driving at night presents the obvious challenge that it’s harder to see in the dark than when it is light out during the day. It’s important to take care of your headlights and routinely check and clean them before driving at night.

The solutions:

  1. Ensure that you have functioning headlights: It seems obvious, but making sure your headlights are in good working order is a simple and important way to make driving at night safer. Periodically make sure that all of your lights are working and that no bulbs are burnt out. Added bonus, making sure all of your lights work means you won’t get pulled over for this, which is considered a driving infraction. Like your windshield, make sure that your headlights are clean. Mud, debris, and snow in winter should all be cleared off of your headlights before you get in the car to drive.
  2. Check headlight alignment: In addition to making sure the bulbs work and the lights cleaned, also check to make sure your headlights are correctly angled. Headlights that are incorrectly aligned too far down reduce the amount of illumination there is on the road ahead of you, making it harder to see clearly; and headlights angled too high can be dangerous to oncoming drivers.
  3. Headlight covering issues: If you own an older car or one that is not typically garaged, pay attention to the plastic covering your headlights. If the plastic becomes hazy, yellowed, or cracked this can reduce the amount of light your headlights provide to illuminate the road in front of you. Many auto parts stores carry headlight restoration kits, which can be effective in restoring the clarity of the plastic. Or, you may need to replace the headlamp covers.

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Driving at night tip #4: Slow down

The challenge: Why should you drive slower at night? There are fewer cars on the road at night, which can lead some drivers to speed up. This is a mistake, because the reduced visibility that comes with it being dark, coupled with higher speeds is a dangerous combination. This is particularly true in rural areas where wildlife becomes more active at night, and on two-lane highways that frequently have more curves and bends than multilane highways. Your reaction time is critical, and higher speeds reduce the time you have to respond to something like a deer, elk, or moose in the road, or an oncoming car on a blind curve.

The solution: Slow down when driving at night. Always be mindful of your speed and the conditions of the road.

Driving at night tip #5: Use your high beams

The challenge: When it’s appropriate to do so, use your high beams. High beams increase the amount of light on the road ahead of you and can even help you to see wildlife more readily. This is because the angle of high beams can reflect off an animal’s eyes, making them appear to glow in the dark — and making them easier to avoid.

The solution: Use your high beams in dark areas, just remember to switch back to normal headlights when you approach an oncoming car so you don’t blind the driver.

Driving at night tip #6: Be extra vigilant

The challenge: This is a catch-all category that boils down to “use common sense.” Don’t drink and drive, and if at all possible, avoid driving on holiday nights where the risk of encountering drunk drivers is increased. Get enough rest, and check any medications. If you feel as though you’re having increased trouble seeing at night, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. Don’t ever text while driving, and avoid having any driving distractions in the car at night.

The solution: At all times it’s good to drive defensively, but it’s especially important when you drive at night. Keep your eyes and attention focused on the road ahead.

All in all, driving at night presents risks that are not present when driving during the day. It’s best to avoid driving late at night if possible, but if you can’t avoid it, make sure you're taking the above mentioned nighttime driving safety tips. As always, make sure your car insurance is up to date. You can find the best and cheapest car insurance options in your zip code by visiting Clearsurance’s car insurance rankings page.

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