Driving after dark: 5 tips to keep safe on the road
With many commuters now travelling by car in darkness at both ends of their journey, here are 5 tips to improve driving in the dark and keeping safe on the road.
People working in Ireland now spend an average of seven hours, 50 minutes travelling every week. This equates to 90 minutes on the move across each weekday. The figures are revealed in the CSO’s National Travel Survey, which maps travel patterns across Ireland.
1. Stop, Sip, Sleep
With early mornings and long days at the office, driver fatigue is a contributory factor in 1 in 5 driver deaths in Ireland every year. A survey of drivers’ attitudes to driver fatigue by the Road Safety Authority revealed that over 1 in 10 motorists have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. The survey also revealed that motorists who drive as part of their work, and motorists who admit to driving after taking any amount of alcohol, had a higher than average incidence of falling asleep at the wheel (almost 1 in 5 fell asleep at the wheel). As tiredness-related collisions are 3 times more likely to be fatal or result in serious injury, the RSA advise to ‘stop, sip, sleep’, for those that feel sleepy while driving. Stop the car in a safe place, sip a caffeine drink and sleep for 15 minutes, they advise.
2. If Severe Weather Strikes!
Before setting off on a journey, it is advised to check to see if there are any problems on your intended route. The Road Safety Authority advises to always plan ahead, especially when travelling in the dark. They recommend sources such as the Department of Transport, local radio stations, Met Eireann, AA Roadwatch and the Garda updates. They advise that there is also information on local authority websites and for updates on conditions on Motorways and National roads there is information on the National Roads Authority Website that is regularly updated.
3. Is Your Car Ready for Winter?
There are a number of key checks that all motorists should do to prepare for driving in darker conditions. Ideally a full service should be done in addition to regular checks. All motorists should look for wear and tear on wiper blades and to replace them if they start to smear and keep tyre pressure at the limit recommended by the manufacturer and ensure that the tread depth is correct. The spare wheel must be in good condition and be fully inflated. For cars that have an inflation repair kit instead of a spare wheel, the advice is to make sure that you know how to use it. Motorists should make sure that all lights are workin and clean, as a broken headlight is an offence and should regularly top up with anti-freeze and screen wash.
4. Check Your Night Vision
Eye care is often overlooked by drivers but particularly for those who drive a lot or drive in darkness, it is essential to have regular eye tests. Some people have difficulty in seeing in dark and low-light situations and suffer from a condition known as ‘night-time blindness’. An eye test will help to recognize this. Make sure to give time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Generally, drivers should compensate for lower light levels by driving more slowly and allowing more time for the journey. Cyclists and pedestrians can be very difficult to see at night and in particular during dawn and dusk, so it is essential to have an updated eye test.
5. Light Up the Night
It’s easy and dangerous to dazzle other drivers or be dazzled by headlights or indeed back lights, so if you can see either white or red lights ahead be sure to dip your own main beams. If you happen to be dazzled by oncoming lights slow down and stop if you have to. If you find your eyes are getting tired, it may help to avert your eyes briefly towards the left side of the roadway, but not for prolonged periods. If a car behind you is blinding you with their lights, use the night-driving mode on your internal mirror and always remember that if you are being overtaken by another vehicle, dim your lights to avoid dazzling the other driver. If you are stopped at traffic lights, take your foot off the brake pedal as the lights can dazzle drivers behind you.
To reinforce their total commitment and leadership in the area of car safety Volvo has announced that they aim to revolutionize driving by rolling out a vision for 2020 where nobody should be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo car. The company is already working on a project to enable cars to share information about conditions that relate to road friction (such as icy patches).
This, in addition to the newest advances from Volvo in autonomous driving support and animal detection are making the aim of a crash-free future more realistic for Irish motorists. “The more information that can be shared on the road, the fewer surprises there are”, says Erik Israelsson of Volvo “And when you’re driving, surprises are what you most want to avoid.”