Night driving

How to make night driving safer. 

The arrival of shorter days poses new challenges to drivers taking to our roads. More of us will be required to drive at night more frequently during late autumn and winter and we must adapt to the effects of these changing conditions on both ourselves and our vehicles.

Driving at night is not only considered less desirable than driving in daylight for many, but it is also proven to be more dangerous. Although traffic volumes are considerably less in hours of darkness, 40% of all collisions occur during this time. 

Reduced vision poses the starkest danger when driving at night, making it more difficult to anticipate hazards and see vulnerable road users. In addition, there is the increased likelihood that tiredness will result in you being less alert. These risks are higher among new, inexperienced drivers and those of older age.

All of this culminates in some drivers avoiding driving in the dark altogether if they can. However, with a few simple steps you can be better prepared for night driving and hopefully feel more comfortable when doing so.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with night driving:

  • Clean your lights and windows
  • Use your headlights
  • Check your headlight level
  • Take your time
  • Take regular breaks
  • Dim your internal lights
  • Have regular eye tests
Clean your headlights

1. Clean your lights and windows

The easiest way to improve visibility is by making sure your lights and windows are clean. Prepare for driving at night by cleaning your headlights, back lights, and indicators. This will ensure each item provides maximum visibility to you and others. Also wipe down your windscreen, windows and wing mirrors. Clean both inside and out and do not neglect your rear window. Removing any dirt will minimise the glare you suffer from other vehicles.

Make sure the inside of your car is dry to prevent avoidable misting in lower temperatures. Your floor mats are likely to be the biggest culprits here, so make sure they are dried after being subject to any wet or muddy footprints.

2. Use your headlights

If you are in any doubt as to whether you need to have your headlights on, our advice is to use them. Although the light from your headlights will not help you see better in early twilight they will make you more visible to other road users. Just make sure you are using them in low beam and not blinding others by mistake.

It is illegal to drive without fully functioning front and rear lights so ensure yours are working before setting out.

3. Check your headlight level

Test where your headlights are aimed on the road in front of you when you start out. Aimed too high and they can blind other road users and not effectively show you the road ahead. Aimed too low and your wider visibility will be restricted. Aim them straight to get the best of both worlds.

You’ll find the location of your headlight level control in your vehicle handbook.

4. Take your time

You must always remain in full control of your vehicle and this may require you to travel at slower speeds when driving at night. Speed and distances are harder to judge in low light so increase your following distances when driving at night.

Night driving

5. Take regular breaks

One of the UK's most shocking road safety facts is that 20% of all major UK collisions are sleep related and that these incidents are more likely to result in serious harm. 

For those of us driving at night during unsociable hours, or even after a poor night’s sleep, making sure we take sufficient rest stops is crucial. Frequent stops for snacks and a leg stretch can help to keep you focused. However, if you feel tired it is important to stop somewhere safe to rest properly before continuing your journey. 

6. Dim your internal lights

The technology and connectivity provided by many new vehicles can come with added distraction. At night, lights and sounds within our car cabin can cause reflections that hamper our view of the road ahead.

Therefore, if you are able, reducing the strength of your dashboard and infotainment lights could contribute to a more comfortable experience when driving at night. Also remind passengers to keep interior lights switched off unless necessary.

7. Have regular eye tests

We all struggle slightly more with visibility when driving at night. But, without an eye test, it’s impossible to know if our own eyes are contributing to the problem. A regular eye test will ensure you have all the support you require when driving in all conditions, and if required, could greatly improve your wider quality of life too.

Eye tests are useful for spotting other underlying health conditions as well as assisting with visual health. Even if you are not aware of any problems with your eyes, you should have your eyes tested by a professional every 2 years as a minimum. This will be more regular for those who already require visibility aids. 

What to do if you are dazzled by another road user

Sometimes it is not only our own actions that make driving at night more unsafe. Others who forget or choose not to dip their headlights from full beam can create an unavoidable and frustrating hazard. The use of our full beam is essential to see properly on roads without road lights or other lighting. However, we must remember to dim them when faced with another road user or risk dazzling them.

If you are approaching an oncoming vehicle who has forgotten to dip their lights from full beam, you should avoid looking at the headlights directly. Instead, focus your attention on the left-hand curb and reduce your speed if required. With care, this should keep you on course.

Tackle night driving with confidence

As the nights creep in and we contend with shorter days, the reality of driving at night is unavoidable for many of us. Following the steps above will ensure you and your vehicle are best equipped for tackling night driving and will ensure you are as safe as possible when doing so.