Friday 20 September 2019

Driving at night: how to make it a safe journey in the dark

* Our Road Safety Authority expert this week has some tips on how you can reduce the stress of night driving

How to make your night drive a safe journey
How to make your night drive a safe journey Newsdesk Newsdesk

The children's cousins were around last Sunday to visit.

At about 4pm their mum said it was time to go home.

There were the usual groans and protests from the children, who obviously didn't want their play time to end.

I suggested they stay a little longer, but the driver was anxious to get on the road because she hated driving in the dark.

She isn't the first person to say that to me.

Some people simply hate driving at night or just prefer to avoid it if they can.

The reasons can stem from lack of experience, confidence or maybe something that's called 'Night-Time Blindness'.

The latter can include difficulty in seeing in dark or low-light situations or your eyes may need more time to adjust after you go from a brightly lit place to a darker one.

I spoke to the National Office of Traffic Medicine in the Royal College of Physicians for their advice on 'Night-Time Blindness'.

They suggest that difficulty with sight in dark situations is probably the result of underlying problems with a person's eyesight.

So if you have a history of poor night vision, whether it's something recent or long-standing, you should see an optician and get an expert medical opinion.

Of course you should have your eyesight tested regularly anyway to make sure that your vision is up to standard.

If you are just building up your experience of night-time driving or maybe lacking in confidence, here are a few tips that might help.

It goes without saying, you really do need to make sure all lights, reflectors and indicators are clean and working properly.

You cannot expect to get a good view of what's in front of you if the beam on your headlights is reduced because a film of grime coats the lens.

Equally, a broken light will reduce your ability to see and be seen.

A broken headlight, is not only an offence, you could be mistaken for a motorcycle.

Using your fog lights at night when there is no fog or snow is also an offence.


Rather than directing your eyes to look ahead to the limit point of the headlights in the distance, misuse of fog lights at night will draw your eyes onto the road space immediately in front of the vehicle.

So you won't be reading the road ahead of you or getting advance warning of any hazards.

If you are starting a night-time journey give time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.

The golden rule when it comes to driving at night is to always drive at a speed at which you can stop within the distance you see to be clear.

At night this also means within the distance covered by your lights.

Generally drivers need to compensate for lower light levels by driving slower.

That will give you more time to see and react to danger.

Allow extra time for your journey when driving at night. That way you will be less tempted to rush in conditions of reduced visibility

Keep lights properly adjusted.

If you can see either white or red lights ahead be sure to dip your own main beam.

On approach to left bends dip your lights earlier as the angle of the beam can severely dazzle an oncoming driver

If dazzled by oncoming lights slow down and stop if necessary.

It may help to avert your eyes towards the left side of the roadway, but not for prolonged periods.


If you are blinded by lights from a vehicle behind use the night-driving mode on your internal mirror.

If dazzled by lights of an oncoming vehicle do not retaliate by putting your own lights on full beam; things will only be much worse if neither of you can see.

Take an extra glance into the distance on the left side before dipping your headlights.

It may provide an opportunity to see a pedestrian, cyclist or unlit object that you might otherwise miss.

If you are being overtaken by another vehicle, dip your lights to avoid dazzling the other driver.

When stopped at the traffic lights or waiting in traffic or at junctions avoid keeping your foot on the brake pedal - as the brake lights can dazzle drivers behind you

Also, watch out for cyclists and pedestrians who can be very difficult to see at night, especially at dawn or dusk. Finally, do take great care out on the roads this Christmas be it day or night so that it will be a time to remember for all the right reasons.

Enjoy the festive period and safe driving to you and your loved ones.

Irish Independent

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