Many drivers – even experienced ones – don’t feel comfortable driving at night, which perhaps explains why road casualty statistics show that 40% of collisions occur in the hours of darkness.
Driving in darkness is certainly harder than in the hours of daylight. It is not as easy to judge speed and distance at night, with objects often closer than they appear, or travelling faster than first expected.
So as the days get shorter, fleet drivers should find these tips useful – or even life-saving.
- Time and space
The most obvious difference with night driving is the decreased visibility, compared to daytime. Drivers can’t see as far down the road, so hazards often seem as if they come from nowhere.
With this in mind, they should prepare for other road users (especially pedestrians and cyclists) by slowing down, driving at a steady pace, and creating more space for themselves.
Lights are clearly vital at night, so drivers need to check that headlights and rear lights are clean and in full working order.
Dipped lights will be the order of the day, or most journeys, except on motorways, full beam can be used more frequently. However, drivers need to be conscious of oncoming vehicles and traffic ahead to avoid blinding them – especially with the latest LED headlights.
The same is true of rural driving. There could well be more scope to use full beam, which is especially useful on roads with lots of bends and frequent changes of direction, but drivers need to pay close attention for any indications of other traffic.
- Look for the warning signs
Concentration on what’s going on around them is even more crucial for drivers at night than it is during the day, because of the shorter reaction times available to them.
It, therefore, helps to recognise the warning signs: pinpricks of light from other cars; reflections from the eyes of animals at the side of, or crossing, roads; or reflective strips from the clothing of pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists. Being aware of these signs can offer drivers more time to react to any eventuality.
- Don’t look too hard, though
Bright lights can adversely affect that all-important concentration at night, so drivers need to be careful not to become distracted by oncoming lights or illuminated signs. The best approach is to try not to look at them.
The body’s natural rhythms mean that night-time is when it’s usually relaxing or asleep – especially if it’s had a hard day at work.
Night-time drivers therefore need to be aware of the dangers of tiredness behind the wheel – which is a major cause of collisions.
At the very first sign of tiredness, drivers need to either swap with another driver. If that isn’t possible, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) suggests pulling up somewhere to have a proper sleep or, if they need to press on, drinking two strong coffee drinks and having a short nap for around 15 minutes.