Driving conditions are remarkably different in the night time, vision is reduced and it can be more difficult to see vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists and for that matter other vehicles. If you are driving at times when you would usually be asleep then you are in much greater danger of falling asleep behind the wheel. The night time dangers multiply by many folds if weather conditions are bad.
Night driving hosts a whole lot of challenges. I went over a dozen articles and few studies and thought I should shed some light on danger of darkness on roads. The thread is very long BUT its very important for all of us to read and learn. Your life is more precious than the time you will spend reading this.
There are no bad cars, only bad drivers. It's up to the driver/ operator to stay alert, especially at night. Night driving isn't just annoying, it's dangerous. Plenty of us hate night driving there is no feeling quite like getting someone else's high beams shined in your eyes.
Nighttime driving only accounts for 25% of all driving and there is usually significantly less traffic during these hours. However, driving at night is more of a challenge than many people think. It is also more dangerous. According to some traffic studies across US and Europe; > Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day > 55% of all driving fatalities occur after dark.> 62% of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
Driving at night is dangerous for all drivers, but it's especially for young drivers who often come out and drive at night and don't follow speed limits and mostly distracted. In fact, the nighttime fatal crash rate is about double that of the daytime rate for teenagers and drivers aged between 20-30. Despite these figures, many of us are not aware of the unique hazards or special precautions associated with night driving. I have no doubt that this tragic and unfortunate number is much worse if we do any traffic study in Pakistan . Reason being vehicles are not running at night with proper required lighting systems. Some even altogether missing front and rear lights. There is no check/ inspection by authorities and some drivers don't feel or think that how dangerous it can be. I am sure everyone of us as a driver have interacted with a tractor trolley or truck or rickshaw without a rear/tail lights. Night also attracts greater numbers of distracted , careless or drunk drivers and roaming wildlife, creating an almost video game-like setting of endless distractions.
Why is Night Driving So Dangerous? There are several factors that increase the risk of a traffic accident at night.
Poor visibility: Visibility is obviously much more limited during night driving. Almost 90% of a driver's reaction depends on it. We become completely dependent on artificial sources of light to guide us. Headlights allow us to see a small portion of the road ahead, but our peripheral vision is not as sharp. Darkness also makes it more difficult to gauge distances and movement. At night your eyes are set up for light gathering and movement detection, as opposed to looking for fine details and colors during the day.The pupils get larger and, like a camera set on a large aperture, you don't have a very good depth of field.
As low light levels cause an eyes pupil to dilate, which can increase any existing focusing problems and result in blurred vision. This is particularly common among people with astigmatism, a common vision condition in which the surfaces of the eye, including the cornea, have an oval shape. The shape of the cornea prevents light from focusing properly on the retina, often leading to blurred vision, which can impair a drivers speed of visual reaction time and affect the ability to quickly identify and localize possible hazards on the road. This condition is very common among drivers and mostly elder drivers and the dangerous part is most of the drivers even don't know they are suffering from such condition. According to a study more than two in ten (21%) report blurred distance vision while behind the wheel in the dark, while a small number (5%) say they have some blurriness and difficulty in seeing the dashboard or dials. Seeing a eye doctor is MUST if you are doubtful. Eye exams are recommended once every three years for drivers younger than 40; every two years for drivers between 41 to 60; and once a year for drivers older than 60. NO COMPROMISE on vision.
Fatigue: Exhaustion dulls the concentration of drivers and slows their reaction time. Drivers are least likely to be alert between 3 AM and 7 AM. Fatigue is also likely to set in at a drivers normal bedtime. we tend to concentrate harder while driving at night, which makes us blink less. Your eyes are more likely to get tired and dry, especially in a car with air conditioning or heating blowing in your face.Feeling tired when you are driving is an early warning sign that you will fall asleep at the wheel. If you choose to ignore the tell tale signs then the consequences can be serious. If you feel tired during the journey then you should find somewhere to stop as soon as possible. If you have another driver then they may be able to take over the driving.
Animals:Become a Retina Spotter. Many animals tend to be more active at night than during the day. They also tend to avoid crosswalks, so they present quite the danger. Road safety professionals recommendation for handling animals on the road may seem a little cruel, but aim is to protect human life. Aim isn't to protect the squirrel, rabbit, cat,dog, or deer that wanders into the road. Be alert for wild/domestic animals. The best strategy when encountering large animals like dog/ a pig or a deer is to slow down as quickly as you can rather than attempt to steer around them. Animals often will follow your lights and move in front of you. Read (https://www.pakwheels.com/forums/news-articles-driver-education-safety/219979-animal-collisions-how-avoid-react-remain-safe-roads)
Freight Liners/ Trucks: You will always comes across trucks/ freight-liners on highways at night. As always stay away from these big vehicles. They have larger blind spots as well as at night drivers have much reduced visibility around them. The best and MUST advise is not to drive along with the trucks. Don't tailgate and linger along them.
Drunk Drivers: More people are drunk or high at night than they are during the day. There is also more drunk and high drivers on weekends than weeknights. The best way to protect yourself from drunk drivers is to be on high alert for strange driving behavior. If you see erratic driving or a driver who drifts across the center line, increase your following distance. If possible, turn on to a different road.
Lets go over some tips/strategies as well as responsibilities as a driver/ owner of vehicle.
- Don't be afraid to use your headlights. Even at dusk or at times when you think you can see fine without them, turn your headlights on. There is no harm in doing so. Not only will this increase your visibility, but it will also help other drivers see your car as well. keep headlights ON half hour before sunset and after sunrise. Use your headlights during periods of rain/fog/ misty conditions or snow/. When in doubt as to whether you should use your lights, turn them on.The lights on a car have two purposes: they help you see at night and they help other road users see you. You don't have to wait for the nighttime before you turn on your car lights or for that matter until the street lights come on. If light levels dip, whatever time of day, then turn on your lights.
- Make sure headlights are properly aligned. A skew in headlights can diminish road coverage and blind oncoming traffic.Conduct regular maintenance checks to assure all signal and brake lights are functioning properly.Even in brand-new cars are sometimes uneven or pointed lower than necessary. So it's worth the effort to aim them correctly. If you do it yourself, use the instructions in your owner's manual. And be patient. It may take a few tries before you have them pointed perfectly. Just make sure those newly aimed lights are not blinding oncoming traffic.
- Check beyond your headlights. Make sure taillights, brake lights, and fog lights are all working properly and not burned out before your next nighttime commute. These should be clean.
- Your eyes will find something to look at and a dirty windshield makes it harder for your eyes to push out and focus where they need to focus. Clean the windshield, windows, and glass surfaces. This includes the car's mirrors. Any streaks, road grime, or smudges on the glass scatter light, reducing contrast of objects on the roadway and consequently can make them appear invisible. Also clean the inside of the windshield, because plastic chemicals can slowly build up on the glass. Clean the wiper blades using a paper towel and windshield washer fluid to remove the grime and oxidized rubber from the edge of the blade. This helps prevent streaks. If there are still streaks, it is probable that you will need to get new blades. If there are any chips or cracks in your windshield, have them repaired immediately. Keep windshield washer fluid at full while traveling at night. Bugs are active at night and will make the screen dirty in no time.
- Slow down. Just because the speed limit is 50 Kmph, it d doesn't mean you have to drive 50. Plus, the speed limit is an indication of the maximum safe speed during optimal driving conditions. Nighttime driving is a hazardous condition, so you should drive 10-20 Kmph below the posted limit. Speeding/ going over the posted limit is just asking for trouble.
- Stay Back. Maintain a greater-than-normal distance from the car in front of you. Distances are more difficult to gauge at night. Typical low beams illuminate the road from 160 to 250 feet in front of your car, and normal high beams shine from about 350 to 500 feet. At 60 mph it takes more than 200 feet to stop. So even with your high beams on, there's not a lot of room for error. Don't out-drive the beams of your headlights. In other words, reduce your speed and increase the distance.Never drive so fast that you are unable to stop within the distance that you can clearly see with your headlights. During poor weather conditions, this distance can be much less. A four-to-five second following distance will make it easier for you to respond to changing driving conditions.
- Look for signs of oncoming traffic. Watch for headlight flashes or glare when approaching hills or curves. This will let you be prepared for meeting the oncoming vehicle. Dim headlights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and within 300 feet when approaching another vehicle from the rear.
- Some new cars come with dashboard dimmer switches for a reason. If you're driving around with the dash light on max, you could be compromising your forward vision. This also implies to your interior headliner lights. Keep it off . Especially the rear seat lights as it will reduce your forward vision and create a glare in your front screen.
- Bright lights can seriously disrupt your concentration at night. Inside the car, your eyes are used to the dim glow of the instrument panel and the dark road ahead. It's very easy to become distracted and stare into a bright road sign or the headlights of an 18-wheeler headed your way without even realizing it. Turn your gaze away from other lights on the road, and don't look at oncoming high beams. Even though you may sometimes find yourself trying to determine if that oncoming car's high beams are on, or if they're just mis-aimed, look away. If a car behind you has its high beams on, often you can move your rear-view mirror to reflect light backward to alert the driver, and to get the reflection away from your own eyes.
- A lot of navigation systems that are dash-mounted have a night setting that turns it to black with light contrasts, rather than white with dark contrasts. The fewer lights inside the car the better because your eyes have trouble deciding which lights to adjust for.
- Glare can make night driving particularly dangerous because those sensitive to glare can become temporarily blinded and driving in rain compounds glare issues. Imagine driving at 60 mph with your eyes closed for five (5) seconds. You would travel 440 feet during that five (5) second period. Wipe windshield's interior to eliminate glare. To avoid glare from oncoming traffic, focus eyes on the left edge of the road. Flip the rear-view mirror. You can change the mirror to its night setting by flipping a small lever at the bottom of the mirror. Lights will still appear in the glass but they will appear much dimmer and therefore not be as bothersome.
- Don't ignore eye fatigue. Address immediately with frequent stops and brisk walks. Or pull into a rest area and catch a nap.Cigarette smoke clouds vision. Don't smoke in car at night. Because of decreased visibility and the increased risk of an accident, driving at night requires you to be completely alert and 100 percent focused on the road. (Read https://www.pakwheels.com/forums/news-articles-driver-education-safety/225997-sleeping-wheel-you-snooze-you-lose-drive-alert-arrive-alive)
- Use your lights courteously. When driving on unlit roads and when no other traffic can be seen ahead of you, you can turn your headlights on full beam. When you see a vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist approaching you must turn the headlights to dip. Remember the do not use any lights in a way that would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. On a straight level road, when you see another vehicle approaching, you should turn your headlights to dip a second after they are able to see you. This shows them that you have gone onto dip, and may remind them to do the same. You should then slow down, as the distance you can see to be clear, will be reduced.Switch to low beams when you're behind someone so you don't blind them. You should also use low beams during heavy fog because high beams can reduce your ability to see and may blind other drivers.
- If an oncoming driver does not lower their beams, avoid glare by looking toward the white line marking the right edge of the road. Do not retaliate by activating your own high beams; this will only increase the likelihood of an accident.
- HID's are big NO(https://www.pakwheels.com/forums/news-articles-driver-education-safety/210872-lightmare-you-using-hids-halogen-reflector-housing-please-dont-do)
- Avoid distractions in the car. Studies show that almost 80 percent of crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds of a crash and at 40 mph, a car can travel almost 180 feet within three seconds.While music can make a ride more enjoyable, it should never take priority over driving. Put down the cell phone. Really, put it down. You shouldn't be texting or trying to dial phone numbers at any point at which you are driving, but it is especially important to avoid using your cell phone at night. Driving distractions like this are only magnified and worse at night. Multi-tasking is not worth it.
- Keep your eyes moving. Driving at night, especially on roads that are not heavily populated with traffic, can leave you in an autonomous state. Scan the road in front of you and look for flashes of light in hard to see places, such as at the top or a hill or around a curve.
- Overtaking another vehicle whilst driving at night can be a risky endeavor. Remember, your view ahead will be limited by the darkness. Bends and dips in the road can be cloaked in darkness. These can easily hide other road users, whether cars or pedestrians. Never takes risks. Be certain that the road ahead is clear.
- There are a lot of low cost so called glare eliminating night driving glasses (yellow in color mostly). Please make sure you are not using the one which actually don't improve vision but make it worse. These classes only make you think you see better. The thought behind these glasses is that they might enhance contrast, helping you to distinguish objects in the dark. In reality, these hokey glasses actually cut down on the amount of light you can see. The smart choice is to use prescription glasses that have an anti-reflective coating, which keeps light from bouncing around inside your lenses.
- Keep your eyes healthy. In case you have any ongoing allergy or eye infections. Don't drive at all.
Road Emergencies at Night:
Emergencies are always worse after dark than during daylight hours. There is less traffic and fewer opportunities for assistance. Here are some suggestions for road emergencies at night:
- Pull your vehicle off the main highway as far as possible. If there is a shoulder, use it. Don't park your car in driving lane.
- Light bulbs can go at anytime, so it's always wise to carry a spare.
- Turn on your emergency flashers and the interior dome light if its working.
- Always keep portable reflectors in your car and use it near your vehicle and 300 feet behind it on the left edge of the roadway. You must have a working flashlight in your car trunk.
- If possible, stay with your vehicle until help arrives. If you must leave your vehicle, carry a flashlight and walk on the shoulder with care.
- Call NHMP #130 for help.
Driving at night is a skill that needs to be learnt.Most drivers are not aware of the dramatic difference that darkness can make in their ability to cope with many situations. It greatly impacts the way we see our surroundings, can increase feelings of weariness, and also makes us more vulnerable to roadway hazards. Observe night driving safety as soon as the sun goes down. Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive, because your eyes are constantly changing to adapt to the growing darkness.
DRIVE SAFE & ALERT. BE A SMART DRIVER