The clock’s going back and the end of Daylight Savings Time marks a period when the days get shorter and the evenings get longer.
We find ourselves going to work, school or university in the dark and also commute home in the dark. With so much activity on the roads taking place at these darker periods of the day, drivers must take greater care on our roads.
Driving your car at night can pose more hazards than driving during day. The dark of night can reduce visibility, making it more difficult to spot pedestrians, road signs and even other vehicles, not to mention the number of dark roads throughout Ireland that don’t have streetlights.
Basic considerations can improve a driver’s safety. Planning a journey and checking the route beforehand, making conscious efforts to time your journeys earlier in the day to avoid driving after dark will also have a positive impact. Adequate eyesight and regular eyecare are of course prerequisites for all drivers but it is amazing how often these aspects are overlooked.
Headlights not only enable the driver to see the road when driving at night, but also allow other road users to see you. People often wait for it to get dark, or for the streetlights to come on, however this is not always the best strategy. If the light levels fall at any time, be it dusk or due to dark rain clouds drivers should turn on the headlights.
Reflections can often be hazardous when driving in the evenings. Interior lights should be switched off and if possible drivers should dim the dashboard lights as this will help to reduce any reflections that can draw the eye and cause a distraction.
Another common issue that drivers face is glare. Individual light sources are more intense at night meaning oncoming lights can be distracting. If having difficulty seeing, drivers are encouraged to pull over and stop. If the glare from headlights is a significant or increasing problem, motorists should visit their optician for a thorough eye examination, as this is sometimes an indication of cataracts or other medical conditions. Lenses with an anti-reflective coating are also a great option at night for anyone who requires glasses to drive. This helps to reduce glare by minimising the reflections within the lenses. To avoid dazzling, headlights should be dipped when another road user is approaching.
Basic car maintenance can also help with vision at night. Having clean headlights and a clean windscreen can make a big difference. Keep windscreen-washer topped up and keep a set of spare light bulbs in your car.
The biggest danger when driving at night is tiredness. Often drivers can ignore the signs but when feeling the effects of tiredness motorists should stop as soon as possible and take a break. Drink a cup or two of strong coffee or a stimulation drink containing caffeine. Caffeine takes around 20 minutes to take effect so try and take a short nap of no more than 15-20 minutes. Much more than this and you might wake up feeling groggy.
Last but not least, ensuring you have adequate eyesight or, the right prescription lenses to correct poor eyesight, is essential for driving. Regular eye and vision examinations are vital as eyesight can deteriorate gradually, which may mean the individual is unaware that their vision is impaired. It is recommended that eye tests should be carried out every two years for most people and annually for anyone over 60.