Risks of Driving in the Dark
Night driving is dangerous because, even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited to about 500 feet (250 feet for normal headlights) creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.
Ultimately, three main factors drive this increased risk: impaired vision, fatigue, and the daily rush hour.
Let’s start with impaired vision: All humans have trouble seeing at night, but healthy eyes should adapt to the darkness. Unfortunately, conditions like nearsightedness make this adaptation less effective, causing additional issues.
Add to this the brightness of headlights, streetlights of varying colors competing with headlights, and the reduced peripheral vision we all experience, and you have a recipe for many drivers seeing less–and seeing it less clearly.
Safety Tip – You can combat impaired vision by:
- Dimming your dashboard to reduce conflicting light.
- Making sure your headlights and windshield are clean.
- Not looking directly at oncoming headlights.
- Wearing anti-reflective glasses.
- Use the night setting on your rearview mirror.
Fatigue: When the sun goes down, we are predisposed to become sleepy. Research shows that drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Because it is hard to test for drowsiness, it can also easily go undetected, leading to accidents.
Safety Tip – Prevent drowsy driving by:
- Making sure you are getting seven hours of sleep or more.
- Never drive when you’ve been awake longer than 16 hours.
- Stopping every one hundred miles or two hours to rest when taking long trips.
- Pulling over if you feel at all sleepy – no matter how inconvenient doing so feels.
While rush hour is always a dangerous time on the road, the earlier sunset can make it even riskier, given the issues noted above.
Safety Tip –To stay safe during a fall/winter rush hour:
- Be sure to drive slowly. (Keep in mind the risk of black ice increases when temperatures drop at night, and it can be hard to spot.)
- Try to curb impatience as it creeps up on you during the busiest hours of the day.
- Avoid texting or eating while driving.
- Don’t let yourself go on autopilot; stay alert and be extra cautious when changing lanes.