11 Tips For Driving In The Dark

Checking your headlights work, taking a break when you feel drowsy and leaving plenty of time for your journey all help when it comes to staying safe at night. But there is a lot more you can do to be prepared for driving in the dark.

Statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) show that 40% of all collisions occur in darkness. So learn how to be best prepared for driving at night with these 11 tips.

1. Allow plenty of time for your journey

Distance between cars

Even though you may be tempted to drive faster at night under the assumption the roads will be clearer, you should always allow plenty of time for your journey. Always drive at a speed that gives you the best reaction time and control of your vehicle. 

You may also want to consider prior route planning or using a sat nav to give you one less thing to worry about while driving. This is especially useful if you’re driving to a place where you’ve never been before, as constantly checking for road signs could be a fatal distraction. 

2. Check your lights work

driving at night

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to check that your lights are working properly. Defective lights are a common cause of night collisions with 153 accidents attributed to them in 2017 alone. 

It’s not just your headlights you should check either. You should make sure your brake lights, fog lights and indicators are also working before setting off in the dark. This is because the importance of lights aren’t just about seeing the road ahead, they also make sure you’re visible to other road users. For example, a broken headlight could make a car look like a motorbike from a distance and broken brake lights give no warning to drivers behind that you’re slowing down. Both of which make an accident more likely to occur.

Check your lights as part of a regular car maintenance routine ensuring that any issues are resolved as soon as possible. You can check your brake lights and indicators are working by asking a family member, friend or passer-by to stand at the back of the car while you press the brake pedal/flick the indicator both ways.

3. Make sure windows/mirrors are clean

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Ensuring your windows and mirrors are clean is vital for safe driving at night. For example what might look like a clean window may actually be a smeary mess which can cause glare when driving in the dark. So, make sure to check the cleanliness of all windows and mirrors during daylight.

If your windows are a bit grubby this can easily be rectified by wiping them down with a microfibre cloth and stopping yourself from touching the inside of the glass.

Mirrors are equally important and dirty mirrors could impact your vision of what’s behind you. Again try not to touch your rear view mirror and wipe it down with a microfibre cloth regularly. Also make sure to clean your side mirrors thoroughly when you clean your car.

4. Avoid driver drowsiness

It’s estimated that up to 6,000 fatal car accidents each year in the UK can be linked to driver fatigue, so make sure you’re well awake before starting your journey. Driving in the dark is likely to make you feel more bleary eyed than usual, especially if you’re going on a longer journey. So, if you know that you’re going to spend a good 2-3 hours or more driving in the dark, you should schedule in numerous rest stops during your journey for caffeinated drinks and other refreshments.

If your journey’s only short and you can’t afford to stop off for a break, make sure that you take some form of drink or snack which you can have to keep yourself awake. Remember to do this safely and in a manner which allows you to still be in full control of the car.

Driving while tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving. At the first signs of drowsiness stop for a break when it’s safe to do so and don’t get back behind the wheel until you are certain you are fit to proceed.

5. Avoid dazzling other drivers

You’ve probably experienced the blinding effect of full-beam headlights firsthand so you know how important not dazzling other drivers is. Get in the habit of dipping your headlights at the first sign of an oncoming vehicle to prevent dazzling other drivers.

If you happen to be dazzled when driving in the dark, slow down or pull over when it’s safe to do so until your eyes have adjusted or concentrate on the verge of the road until the car has passed. You may also want to invest in some night driving glasses to try and reduce the effect.

6. Look out for speed signs

speed sign at night

If you’re travelling a familiar route it’s likely you’ll already know what the speed limits are in the different segments of your journey. However, if you’re travelling somewhere new then it’s important to look out for speed signs in order to keep a safe and legal speed.

Many modern cars now offer traffic sign recognition to assist you with choosing a suitable speed but this should only be used as a fallback. Instead, look around for clues as to what the speed limit in a certain area could be. For example, street lights and residential housing suggests it’s probably a 30mph zone. Use this reference table to help you determine a likely speed if you can’t see any road signs.

However, regardless of what speed limit you believe the road to be it’s important to err on the side of caution. Not only will this help stop you speeding, it’s also safer.

7. Carry a high-vis jacket in your car

Nobody likes to breakdown but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, especially on a high speed road. This is where a high-vis jacket can come in handy if you suddenly come to a halt while you’re driving at night. 

If you’re unfortunate enough to break down when driving in the dark, look for a safe and well-lit place to stop such as the hard shoulder. Switch on your hazards before getting out of the car and wait for recovery a safe distance away from the road with your high-vis clothing on.

8. Keep a safe distance between cars

Keeping a safe distance between cars is just as important when driving in the dark as it is in adverse weather. If there aren’t any indicators on the road to help you keep your distance, such as chevrons, then you might want to adopt the ‘two-second rule’. 

The two-second rule is a general rule of thumb that suggests a driver stay two-seconds behind any vehicle in front. The rule has been shown to help prevent collisions as it helps to provide ample braking distance.

To adopt the two-second rule, you can use static objects at the side of the road such as lamp posts or exits on a high speed road as reference points. Once the car in front is level with this point, count two seconds in your head – if you arrive there before you’ve counted, you know that you’re too close. Ease off the accelerator and check again to make sure you’re a safe distance away

For added safety or in extreme weather you may want to opt for the four-second rule instead and stay four seconds behind any vehicle in front.

9. Beware of dangerous bends

In daylight it’s relatively easy to judge a bend because you can see it, but driving in the dark makes this near impossible. Thankfully road signs in the form of arrows are used to help signify bends – the more arrows used, the sharper the bend is.

Look for these arrows if you see the road ahead beginning to bend and do all your braking before the corner. Then use a sensible speed to make it around safely.

10. Check your mirrors regularly

Regularly checking your mirrors is something you should already be in the habit of doing regardless of whether it’s day or night. However, it’s easy to become transfixed on what’s ahead of you when driving in the dark, blinding yourself to the rest of your surroundings.

We recommend that you check your mirrors every 3-5 minutes so that you stay alert. For example, this way you can tell if a car is following too closely behind and you can take precautions that could prevent an accident.

11. Choose a well-lit route

driving at night

With a decline in street lighting in the UK, choosing a well-lit route is more important now than it has ever been. You can no longer rely on street lighting to illuminate your journey with 48% of lights either being dimmed or switched off. As such, make sure to do some prior planning before you set off and choose a well-lit route.

This might mean avoiding high speed roads, potentially adding more time to your journey. But it can also make it safer for your journey in the dark if you can see more thanks to street lighting. This approach will likely take you through more residential areas too where there is a reduced speed limit and fewer cars, which also makes it safer.

Want a car that makes driving in the dark easier? Compare our car lease deals now for offers on models with the latest safety tech such as traffic sign recognition and adaptive headlights.

Do you have more questions regarding road safety or leasing in general? Find out more by heading over to our car safety guides page.

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