If you’re headed from Erie into Denver or out into the mountains, it’s important to be a smart, aware driver if you want to make it safely to your destination. Part of this includes being aware of the added perils of driving at night. Dark roads, sudden bright headlights, and other changes in lighting make it much harder to have full vision at night. These effects are magnified in older drivers who may not be able to see as far as they used to or have lost some of their ability to quickly adapt to changes in lighting. To stay safe even when your vision is reduced, follow these tips.
No matter how good and attentive driver you are (or think you are), you can’t control other drivers on the road. Always assume other drivers are trying to cause an accident, and plan ahead to stop them.
At night, you’re looking for a few different things.
- No headlights could mean a drunk or distracted driver who is so unaware of their surroundings they don’t know their lights are off. It could also be a driver who can’t see because their lights are off.
- Swerving, crossing lanes, or going unreasonably slow could be a drunk or tired driver trying to overcompensate for their impaired condition.
- Having an overhead light on could mean that the driver is temporarily distracted by something else or has their vision reduced by that light hitting off of their windows.
Watch Out for Animals
Be on the lookout for dogs, deer, and other animals that may try to cross the road at night. They may not realize how fast an approaching car is traveling or may be stunned or confused by your headlights.
The first thing you’ll usually see is your headlights reflecting off of their eyes. Also, watch for shadows and movement along the side of the road off in the distance beyond where you can see clearly. For animals that travel together, like deer, slow down when you see one because there are probably more. And of course, just slow down when you’re on an isolated road where wildlife is common.
Keep Your Car Maintained
Driving in the dark is already a disadvantage, so don’t put yourself even further behind. Keep your car properly maintained for safe driving at night.
Keep your windows and mirrors squeaky clean. Small streaks and residue that you don’t notice during the day can cause a blinding glare when struck by oncoming headlights at night. Use a cleaner designed for windshields along with a microfiber cloth. Some people even recommend doing a final wipe with newspaper because it doesn’t leave anything behind.
Remove your headlight covers and clean them at least once per year. Car washes don’t completely clean the exterior, and debris slips through the cracks and coats the inside as well. You should also check all of your lights to make sure they’re working and at full power while you’re at it.
No matter how many precautions you take, it’s still almost always going to be safe to drive on a bright and sunny day. If you can leave early enough to avoid finishing your drive at night, do it. Also, check for any approaching storms that could make your drive even worse, and adjust your travel times. If you do need to drive at night, stick to well-lit, well-traveled roads and follow these safety tips to make sure you get where you’re going.