Driving in the Dark – how safe are you?When you are driving at night you can’t see as far ahead as in daylight. You can get help from illuminated and reflective signs, reflectors between white lines (cat’s eyes) and the glow of other vehicle headlights. Be aware of the hazards of driving at night such as misjudging distance, speed, cyclists, animals and pedestrians can be harder to see.
Never drive so fast that you can’t stop in the distance you can see to be clear in your lights. To enable you to see further you can use main beam on unlit roads unless you meet oncoming traffic or are following another vehicle. On lit roads you should use your full headlights. If you are on an unlit road and have main beam on, avoid dazzling others by switching it off during passing and then returning to full beam.
At dusk you may want to put your side lights on before “lighting up time” (when the street lights come on). Don’t be afraid to be the first driver with their lights on. Likewise at dawn the opposite applies. Don’t switch off your lights until you are sure it is safe and you can be seen easily. Why not be the last to turn off your lights, but the first to turn on. A lot of cars now have daytime running lights.
Your eyesight also plays a big part in your ability to drive at night. Have your eyes checked regularly. Keep your windows clean – clean windows cut down dazzle as they are not full of grease which can make it harder to see, straining your eyes can also lead to fatigue.
You’ll need to take extra care when overtaking at night. Only overtake if you can see the road will remain clear until after you have finished the manoeuvre and are safely back on your side of the road. Don’t overtake if there is a junction, bend, brow of a bridge or hill.
Remember to keep your distance. On a dual carriageway or motorway where it is possible to overtake, if you are overtaking on a dual carriageway only pop your full beam on when you are alongside the car you are overtaking. Don’t use full beam in the face of oncoming drivers, this will cause dazzle. If you’re being overtaken, dip your lights as soon as the vehicle has passed you.
If you are dazzled by another vehicles lights, slow down and if necessary stop. Don’t look directly at oncoming lights and don’t retaliate by leaving your lights on full beam to dazzle them back! On a left hand bend you should dip earlier as your headlights will cut straight across the eyes of anyone coming toward you temporarily blinding them.
When parking at night the same rules apply, you must not park within 10 metres of a junction, on a blind bend, and you should park facing the direction of traffic.
If you have to park on any other type of road, you should never leave your vehicle without side or parking lights unless signs indicate otherwise. You must not park on the right hand side of the road unless it is a one way street.
If you are going to stop at the side of the road for a short time always switch your headlights off even if your engine is still running, you can always leave sidelights on. If you leave your headlights drivers coming towards you will not be able to see to the side of your car properly.