Driving at night might not seem like a big deal. That’s what headlights are for after all, right? The problem is, a disproportionate majority of traffic deaths occur when it’s dark outside. Young drivers and elderly drivers are most likely to be injured or killed when driving at night, but everyone is at risk. Staying informed about the nighttime driving can help keep you–, and others on the road–safe, and help find ways to upgrade the safety of your trip if nighttime driving is in your plans.
Fact 1: About 50% of nighttime driving fatalities are caused by poor visibility or vision.
It’s harder for everyone to see at night–and it’s particularly difficult for drivers over 50, who often need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. Going out of your way to optimize your vision can make all the difference. These are just a few of the steps you can take:
- Make sure you have a recent eye exam and a current prescription for glasses or contacts.
- Make sure your headlights are aimed correctly down and toward the right side of the road.
- Give your headlights a tune-up; polish or replace the headlight cover and replace dim or burned-out bulbs.
- Clean your windshield and exterior mirrors. Don’t neglect the inside of your windshield. Use a microfiber cloth or an old newspaper to polish your class to a streak-free shine.
Fact 2: Driver fatigue accounts for as many as 100,000 car accidents in the U.S. each year.
In one study, 60% of drivers confessed to driving while very tired, and another 30% said they’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Of those, thirteen percent said they fell asleep at the wheel around once every month. Unfortunately, driving while sleep-deprived isn’t much better than driving while intoxicated. It puts you and other drivers at risk. A huge variety of factors can contribute to fatigue when you need to drive, but these tips can help:
- Avoid driving when tired. Take a nap first, call a cab or a friend, or rearrange your schedule to avoid driving when you need to catch up on sleep.
- Eat a balanced meal or snack. Healthy carbs and fats and some fruit and veggies can make all the difference in the way you feel while you’re driving. Take a few minutes to give your body an energy boost before you hit the road.
- Chronically tired when you need to be on the road? Take a hard look at rearranging your schedule so you’re not putting yourself and others at risk when you drive. Consider which factors within your control you can change to ensure you’re rested when you’re behind the wheel.
Fact 3: Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs are most often on the road (and most dangerous) between midnight and 3 a.m. on the weekends.
Keep in mind that this can include prescription drugs, too; if you take sleeping pills or any other prescription medications, you shouldn’t get behind the wheel at night. Your best defense against other impaired drivers is to slow down and stay hyper-aware of other vehicles as they approach. Opt for more well-lit, well-traveled roads rather than back roads or rural routes. And if you can avoid driving during the hours of the morning, especially on weekends, try to stay home.