Tips to make night driving easier
About 56 percent of crashes occur between 18:00 and 06:00, according to the Road Transport Management Corporation (RTMC) statistics. For this reason, the Automobile Association (AA) of South Africa is emphasising the importance of understanding how to drive safely in dark conditions.
“First, and most important, anyone who suspects they have problems seeing at night should consult a doctor or optometrist to get their eyesight checked. Be honest with yourself about this, as it is a safety aspect that mustn’t be ignored.
“Equally important, anyone who needs prescription spectacles to drive must ensure they wear them, especially in low-light conditions. Don’t let vanity outweigh safety; it’s not worth it,” the AA urges.
Another tip to driving better at night is to have a route planned, where possible one with good road lighting. Other useful tips from the AA on driving at night include:
- Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in proper working order. Make sure trailer brake and indicator lights are connected and working before setting off.
- Keep your front and rear windscreens clean. Make sure your defogger is working properly.
- Avoid keeping your gaze focused at a single distance, as this can cause eye fatigue.
- Do not drive faster than the range of your vision – you must be able to stop at all times; within the length of the road illuminated by your headlights.
- Turn your headlights on before sunset, and keep them on after sunrise. This will make your vehicle more visible to other motorists.
- Don’t blind other motorists. Dip your headlights well before an approaching vehicle is within range, as well as when driving behind another vehicle. If other drivers don’t do the same, flash the high beam for a second. Don’t retaliate by keeping your high beam on; two blinded drivers instead of one is merely doubling the danger.
- Maintain a safe following distance behind the vehicle ahead of you. Your reaction time may be slower at night, because you are seeing less, but you have to respond in the same time as you would during the day.
The AA says it is also advisable to drive according to the conditions of the road and your abilities, so driving more slowly at night is a good option.
This is especially critical when considering the results of a recent study by the Automobile Association of America (AAA) which suggests that halogen headlights, found in over 80 percent of vehicles on the road today, may fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 64 km/h.
The AAA notes: “The tests measured the distances at which modern headlights illuminate non-reflective objects on both low-beam and high-beam settings. These findings indicate that when travelling on unlit roadways, today’s headlights fail to light the full distance necessary for a driver to detect an object or obstacle in the roadway, react, and come to a complete stop.”
“If you are going to be driving at night, ensure you are well rested before getting behind the wheel, as being fatigued while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk,” the AA warns.