whether it's road safety week or not, it's always going to get dark
If you're driving in poor light, there are some things to check before you drive and while you're on the road.
According to the National Safety Council, the risk of a crash is three times greater at night — there are several contributing factors for this. At this time of year, driving in the dark is sometimes unavoidable thanks to the shorter daylight hours. Rush hour for many people during the winter months takes place under the cover of darkness, whether it's the morning or the evening. Factor in the fatigue brought on by night driving, the actions of other drivers and compromised night vision then you could have a dangerous situation. This is why it's especially important to take the following into consideration;
Before you drive
There are several things you can do before you even take to the road. Firstly don't set off if you are feeling under the weather or are considering driving tired. Night driving can be disorientating for anyone but can be especially detrimental if you are not feeling 100% before you get behind the wheel.
Secondly make sure your vehicle is up to the task. The most basic of checks can make your journey a whole lot safer. Make sure your windows and mirrors are at an acceptable level of cleanliness — being blinded by an oncoming driver is common, but it could be a whole lot worse if you have a dirty windscreen. It may seem obvious, but a quick check of your lights (front and back) will help both you and other road users have a stress-free journey.
On the road
Think about your speed for a moment. Your depth perception and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark, and there's a chance that the headlights of an oncoming vehicle could temporarily disorientate your vision. Don't see the speed limit as a target, use it as guidance. Your headlights at night will give you around 250ft of vision (500ft with full-beams) — if you're travelling at 60mph your overall stopping distance is 240ft, so it's essential that you cut your speed. The majority of new cars have adjustable headlights and you'll soon be able to see if yours are aimed correctly. If they aren't, pull over safely into a lay-by and adjust as necessary. If you have the option to dim your dashboard then do so as the in-car lighting can also be a distraction.
It's a worrying statistic that 37%* of drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel at some point*. If your journey is unavoidable then it's important to take as many rest stops as possible. The distance between service stations in the UK allows drivers to pull over at least once every couple of hours for a rest break. If you know in advance that you are going to undertake some night-time driving, make sure you get as much sleep as possible beforehand.
Even if the road is familiar to us, driving at night is always more dangerous. Taking heed of the advice above and all other information during Road Safety Week 2018 will make the roads a safer place, day and night.
(*Source: National Sleep Foundation based on US drivers)