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Driving safely in the dark – top tips

As winter approaches it can feel like it’s almost always dark. The short days mean that we are likely to spend more time driving in night-time conditions than usual.

car

My parents disliked driving in the dark for many years, something I didn’t understand when I was younger. However, when I reached my forties and my eyesight began to deteriorate, my optometrist told me my ability to see at a distance wasn’t as good as I thought it was, and it can take longer for older eyes to adjust from bright to dim light. It was then I appreciated why my parents were less fond of night-driving as recovering from glare takes longer.

However, I don’t live near good public transport links, and driving in the dark is essential for day-to-day living, so I asked Dr Ian Beasley, optometrist and Head of Education at the Association of Optometrists for his practical advice on how to keep safe when driving in night-time conditions.

Warning signs that indicate you have problems driving in the dark

 Dr Beasley highlighted the following warning signs:

  • Trouble with oncoming headlights
  • Difficulty seeing road markings and street signs
  • Needing to drive slowly
  • Difficulty with judging distance and speed

Tips to keep safe when driving in the dark

He also gave me the following tips to keep safe while driving in the dark:

  • Visit an optometrist - Ensure you see your optometrist, at your local opticians, at least every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it. As we age, we have greater difficulty seeing at night and some older drivers’ vision is compromised by cataracts and degenerative eye diseases
  • Keep it clean - Adopt a Mrs Hinch sensibility for your car. Clean your windows inside and outside as a dirty windshield can cause glare and reduce visibility. Check the dirt and grime build up on your headlights too as their brightness and range can be reduced
  • Look away - Looking at oncoming headlights can leave you dazzled for up to five seconds so don’t look directly into the headlights of oncoming traffic. If this happens, slow down and if possible, stop driving until these effects have worn off
  • Dim the dashboard - A bright dashboard will hinder your vision, so use the dimmer switch, if you have one
  • Don’t be a drowsy driver - Drowsy driving is a serious problem resulting in many thousands of road accidents each year. According to RoSPA1, research shows that driver fatigue maybe a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents. So, ensure you are rested and try to avoid driving between midnight and 6am
  • Slow down - Reduce your speed and increase your following distance behind the car in front of you

Find out more about the AOP’s Don’t swerve a sight test campaign designed to encourage all drivers to have regular sight tests.

Notes

  1. Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). It is not possible to calculate the exact number of sleep related accidents, but research shows that driver fatigue may be a contributory factor in up to 20% of road accidents, and up to one quarter of fatal and serious accidents