With summer now firmly in the rear-view mirror, the days are quickly getting shorter and the nights longer. And, with the return of Daylight Standard Time in November, spending your driving time in the dark will inevitably increase.
Few people would disagree that driving in the dark is more difficult than when the sun is shining. With less natural light available, visibility is limited, and it’s harder to see what’s happening around you. The reality is, however, that you can’t always avoid night driving, and there will be times when you have to hit the road in the dark. While driving when it’s dark out may be challenging, there are things you can do to ensure a safer drive.
- Get your eyes checked regularly. Like everything else, eyes age and once a person hits their mid-40s, their eyes may begin to show signs of decline. A regular check-up can help ensure your vision is at its best for the drive ahead.
- Have your hearing tested too. Almost four in 10 Canadians (38%) have hearing loss, and as we get older, this percentage grows considerably. Approximately 51% of people aged 50 to 59, 77% of those aged 60 to 69, and 94% of Canadians aged 70 to 79 have measurable hearing loss. It may be time to get your hearing checked (and corrected) because being able to hear what’s going on around you is also important to your road safety.
- Only drive when rested. While the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) has warned that drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, driver fatigue is still all too common in the evening and into the night. So, it’s important to know the symptoms when it is best to avoid driving at all. You’re too tired to be driving — and should pull over for a rest if you can do so safely in a secure and well-lit location or let someone else take the wheel — if you’re frequently yawning, fighting to keep your eyes open, can’t recall driving the last few minutes, are unable to maintain a steady speed, or are drifting in and out of your lane.
- Let your GPS guide you. Set up your GPS device, whether it’s your smartphone or vehicle’s navigation system before you head out. This will help to ensure you’re on the right route. The GPS will also minimize the risk of missing your turn or exit, which can be daunting to correct at night, especially in an area you’re unfamiliar with travelling in.
- Clean and clear your windows. Remove any obstructions that hinder your line of sight ahead of you, to your side, and behind you. Also, remove all dirt, snow or frost on your mirrors and windows before hitting the road.
- Drive at a speed that allows you to stop safely. Your vehicle’s headlights can only help you see so far down the road. Depending on your vehicle, your low beams will generally illuminate approximately 45 metres ahead of you. Layer in the speed you’re travelling at, and your stopping distance could be greater than the lit area your headlights provide. For example, at 70 km/h, your stopping distance is 40 metres, and at 80 km/h, it’s 60 metres.
- Don’t overuse your high beams. Although your vehicle’s high beams will illuminate a longer distance, it’s prudent to only use them when necessary to avoid blinding other drivers. While each province’s rules of the road vary on this topic, err on the side of caution. Use your low beams when you’re within 150 metres of the car ahead of you and 300 metres of oncoming traffic. It would help if you also switched over to low beams when coming upon a curve in the road or a hill.
- Adjust your speed to the weather and road conditions. When the weather is inclement or the road conditions are poor, take your time and increase your following distance. It will help ensure you’re able to stop in ample time or prevent a skid. When visibility is reduced, you should go slower and give yourself more space.
- Kick glare to the curb. Glare happens, but you can minimize its impact on you when driving. When facing oncoming traffic with bright lights, look ahead and toward the right side of the road (the edge of the lane or the painted border) to avoid the resulting glare. For vehicles behind you, adjust your rear-view mirror accordingly.
- Avoid passing other vehicles when possible. On single-lane roads, it might be tempting to pass a slow-moving vehicle. At night, however, oncoming traffic appears further away than it is, making the manoeuvre especially difficult to do safely.
You don’t have to drive at night if you don’t want to.
Not everyone is comfortable driving at night. If the thought of driving at night makes you nervous, there are options. From ride-sharing and taxis to carpooling or spending the night, there are alternatives that may work and are worth considering.