Driving At Night
It’s considered the most dangerous time of day on the road, but as we fall back to shorter days, it’s inevitable that you will at times, find yourself driving at night. Tiredness, a lack of light, compromised night vision and rush hour will all contribute to making driving at night far more dangerous than any other time of the day. The fact that a fatal car accident is three times as likely at night only highlights that fact. It’s therefore incredibly important that we take extra care, considering a number of factors; the most important of which, we’ve outlined for you below.
Tiredness and fatigue
Did you know a recent poll by the National Sleep foundation found a whopping 60% of adults had driven while they were tired? Add to this the fact that 37%, that can be translated into 103 million people, had actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Of those 37%, 13% had admit to falling asleep at least once per month while 4% had actually caused a collision through falling asleep. While this may sound insane to some, the reasons behind such statistics are actually numerous and no doubt the very same reasons we may find ourselves driving while tired – shift work, lack of decent sleep, long working hours and even sleep disorders. It’s a myth that this only happens on long car journeys too. These frightening numbers are only backed up by another recent report which found 10,000 police reported car accidents are a result of driver fatigue. The vast majority of which happened at a time you’d expect drivers to be tired too, which are between 4am and 6am, midnight until 2am and 2pm through to 4pm. It’s such a recognised problem in fact that there’s now a Drowsy Driving Prevention Week held annually in November. To help fight this problem, the National Sleep Foundation suggests ensuring you get a good seven to nine hours sleep a night. They also suggest avoiding driving if you’ve been awake for more than 24 hours. For those driving on long journeys, a rest stop should be taken every two hours. If however, you simply can’t carry on, pull over and take a nap. Last but not least, travel during times you would normally be awake.
Hours of darkness
When daylight saving ends, many find themselves spending a lot more time driving within the hours of darkness and it’s during this time that depth perception, peripheral vision and even colour recognition can all be compromised. Even the glare of oncoming headlights can temporarily blind drivers. Not to mention the fact that even with high beam headlights, your visibility would still be limited to around 500 feet, with normal headlights offering a measly 250 feet. This creates far less time to react, especially when driving at high speeds; there are however, a number of ways to combat the problems associated with driving in darkness:
• Ensure your headlights are aimed correctly and are clean
• Look away from oncoming lights and adjust your rear view mirror to prevent any “blinding beams” from headlights behind you
• Dim any lights on your dashboard
• Ensure your driving glasses are anti-reflective
• Ensure your windshield is clean, avoiding any streaks
• Slow down to counteract your limited visibility
When we refer to the term night vision, we’re referring to the ability to see well in low lighting. As we age however, we become less adept at it, in some instances, finding it a struggle to see during the hours of darkness. So much so that a 50 year old driver could need twice the amount of lighting in order to see as well as some 30 year olds. According to a recent study carried out by the American Optometric Association (AOA), some 60 year olds will find driving much harder as a result of degenerative eye sight and night vision. The AOA recommend having annual vision exams to keep on top of loss of eye sight. They also recommend slowing your speed, taking driving courses, minimising distractions as well as checking with your doctor regarding side effects of any medication you may be taking. Some may even find it of benefit to limit their driving to daytime hours only.
While there are two separate times throughout the day when it could be considered rush hour, it’s actually the evening rush hours between 4pm and 7pm that’s considered the most dangerous. This is all down to the drivers being very eager to get home. During winter months, the risk increases once more for the simple fact that it’s dark during rush hour. So what can you do to make things safer? Well, it’s the answer to a lot of things in life: patience. Stay in your lane too and keep in mind that other drivers may dart from one lane to another. You must also refrain from going on autopilot despite the route being very familiar and stay as alert as possible. Most of all, do not touch your phone, eat or drink during your journey as this could distract you too much from the road.
Impaired drivers – alcohol/drugs
Did you know that 30 people die every single day as a result of a road traffic accident that involves an impaired driver through alcohol? When they take into consideration drivers that may be impaired by prescription medicines or recreational drugs, the numbers increase dramatically. Impaired drivers are also said to drive more during the hours of darkness, more specifically during the hours of midnight through to 3am during weekends. While drunk driving has indeed declined hugely, a whopping one-third to be precise, since 2007, the number of drivers under the influence of drugs has increased. During the years 2013 to 2014, 22% of drivers tested positive for drugs that could lead to impaired driving.
With this in mind, we advise you to stay alert and stay alive. While we may only do one quarter of our driving during the hours of darkness, a whopping 50% of all road traffic deaths take place at night. Regardless of whether your journey is familiar or not, driving at night is always more dangerous. Fact! Take some extra precautions however, and we can all contribute to bring such frightening statistics down.