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What Makes Driving at Night More Dangerous?

Night Driving

Night time driving is a must for anyone who works second and third shifts as well as for those who are taking care of day-to-day activities or who just want to enjoy the evening with family and friends.

Unfortunately, driving gets more dangerous as the light fades. While we only do one quarter of our driving at night, 50% of traffic deaths happen at night. In fact, more than 40,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2016 (according to Injury Facts).

Road fatalities triple during the night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Road fatalities triple during the night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Click To Tweet

The Dangers of Night Driving

Night time driving presents obstacles and risks that you do not have to deal with during the day, such as shorter days and compromised night vision. In addition, the everyday risks become a little more dangerous under the cover of darkness.

The eyes, in general, are terrible at seeing at night with depth perception, peripheral vision and the ability to distinguish color diminished.

Because your vision accounts for nearly 90% of your reaction while driving, night time driving dramatically decreases your ability to effectively respond to potential hazards on the road. Even with high-beam headlights on, your visibility is limited to about 350 to 500 feet (160 to 250 feet with normal headlights), meaning there is less time to react.

Night blindness is a condition that makes it hard to see in poor light or at night. Symptoms include:

  • Decreased vision at night or poor light
  • Peripheral vision problems
  • Possible loss of central vision

Night time driving is made more dangerous by the following factors.

Reduced visibility. At night, we no longer have natural light to help us see road signs, other drivers, pedestrians, debris in the road, animals, and other obstacles. It also makes it more difficult to judge the distance between your car and another car. Driving at night means relying on headlights and street lights, which don’t provide the same visibility that natural light does.

Age factors. Unfortunately, as we age, our ability to see at night deteriorates. In addition, older drivers may have compromised vision due to cataracts and degenerative eye diseases.

Rush hour. Any time of the year, rush hour can be a dangerous driving time. As the days get shorter and darkness comes earlier, the drive time becomes more dangerous especially when driving in stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Drowsy or fatigued driving. A study published by the National Sleep Foundation tells us that sleep-deprived drivers are the cause of 6,400 deaths and 50,000 serious injuries annually on our roads. A drowsy driver’s reaction times are greatly reduced. Fatigued drivers can be on the road any time of the day, but night time hours (especially from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m.) are the prime time.

Driving under the influence. Impaired drivers are more likely to be on the road after dark, between the hours of midnight to 3 a.m. on weekends. There is a higher risk of sharing the road with an impaired driver at night as people leave restaurants and bars. According to the National Safety Council, weekend nights are the worst part of the week for fatal accidents

Distracted Night DrivingDistracted drivers. We already know that anything that takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and mind off driving is a distraction. This can be an even deadlier combination at night.

Construction activity. Often, road construction happens in the evening hours. With poor light and other factors, it can be difficult to see construction work zones and you can get blinded by the bright work lights being used.


Road Safety Tips When Driving at Night

  • Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in proper working order.
  • Aim your headlights correctly and make sure they are clean.
  • Turn your headlights on about an hour before the sun goes down. This makes it easier for other drivers to see you at dusk.
  • Be careful using your high beams. You do not want to blind other drivers.
  • Dim your dashboard lights. Lights in the car can sometimes cause a nighttime glare on your windshield.
  • Driver slower. Driving too fast reduces your ability to react to whatever might be in the road.
  • Allow for more space between you and the car ahead of you.
  • You can avoid nighttime glare by focusing your eyes on the right side of the road near the white lines, using the day-night feature on your rearview mirror and keeping your windshield clean.
  • Take breaks to break up long drives.
  • Avoid drivers who are swerving or drifting.
  • Know when to pull over to a safe rest area to get some sleep or take a nap.

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