LIFESTYLE – How to stay safe when driving in the dark

With the winter nights set to roll in, the sun will rise later, and the evenings will become shorter. The 5pm commute home will soon become dark, and it’s important to stay alert, regardless of how well you know the route. According to ROSPA, 40% of collisions occur in the dark. This is due to reduced visibility and an increase in difficulty when it comes to judging distance and speed. At the minimum, you need to check that your headlights work, leave plenty of time for your journey and take a break if you feel drowsy or tired.

If you’re new to driving the dark, or haven’t done it in the while, it can be a daunting experience. Luckily, the experts at Design 911 have shared their top tips for driving in the dark.

1) Leave enough time for your journey

A lot of people think it’s easier to drive at night because the scenery is more familiar, and you already know what you’re looking for. But the conditions change a lot more at night than you might think, so it’s important to pace yourself and make sure you’ve allowed plenty of time for any delays. Allow yourself time to adjust to any changes in lighting or road conditions. Don’t be afraid to stop and check your maps if you get lost or if you’re unsure of where you’re going. This will allow you time to calm down and give your mind a break from focusing on the road, which could be dangerous if you start to feel stressed.

2) Use your lights correctly

It’s a good idea to check your car’s lights before you drive in the dark. If one of your headlights is faulty, you could be breaking the law as well as putting yourself and others at risk. It’s also important to use your lights correctly. If you don’t have daytime running lights, turn your dipped headlights on an hour before sunset and keep them on an hour after sunrise. This will ensure that pedestrians and other road users can see you clearly during darker hours of the day.

3) Avoid drowsiness

If you’re going on a long journey and you know that it’s going to take you more than two hours, make sure that you leave plenty of time to stop off for snacks and drinks. If you don’t, you might find yourself driving in the dark with no food or drink and becoming increasingly tired as the darkness can make your eyes bleary. Make sure that if you do have to drive in the dark, you’re keeping yourself awake. If you feel yourself getting drowsy, pull over for 10-15 minutes to eat and drink something.

4) Keep your windscreen washer fluid topped up

As the weather gets colder, it’s important to make sure that your windshield wiper fluid doesn’t freeze. Ice and snow are hard on your car and can even cause accidents, so it’s important to keep your windshield clean.

Don’t use ordinary water as windshield wiper fluid because it will turn to ice as soon as the temperature reaches zero and you won’t be able to see very well. Use either ready-mixed washer fluid or mix concentrated washer fluid with water – check the bottle for the recommended mixture based on how cold it gets where you live.

 5) Beware of dangerous bends

To make a bend safely, you need to know both the size and speed of it. But at night this can be difficult. Road signs help with bend size but not with speed – unless the sign is an arrow. If the road curve begins to bend or has multiple arrow signs, start braking early and use a slow speed to safely navigate it. Use caution when driving in the dark. Don’t rely on your eyes to know how sharp a curve is (as it is hard to estimate when you can’t see the edges) and use spotlights. Slow down, inhale, and smoothly turn the wheel to follow the direction of the corner.