While it will always be safer to drive during the day, there are times when nighttime driving is simply unavoidable. This could be because your work hours push your evening commute until late in the night, or perhaps because you do not have much time left to complete the last leg of a road trip.
Regardless of why you are traveling at night, you should be prepared to do so as safely as possible. Following the tips below tips will help you limit your risk of being involved in a nighttime car accident.
The Top 5 Safety Tips for Nighttime Driving
Mississippi is a beautiful and ecologically diverse state, which means that you could find yourself cruising by the beach one moment, and then traveling through lush forests only a short while later. It is important to always drive for the environment you are in, so safe driving practices might vary depending on where you are.
However, you can generally count on the following five safety tips.
Get Enough Rest
Your best bet to staying safe and alert during nighttime driving is by getting enough rest. If you know that you’ll be traveling during evening hours or throughout the night, take a nap before you hit the road.
The Sleep Foundation states that a 10 to 20 minute nap is generally considered ideal for adults. Napping for this length of time provides many of the same recovery benefits as a longer nap, all without causing you to feel overly tired when waking up. This is often referred to as a power nap. Taking a nap can also:
- Help regulate your emotions
- Increase alertness
- Improve reaction times
- Reduce overall feelings of sleepiness
Napping by itself is not enough, though. Pair your nap with a solid seven to eight hours of sleep the night before for ideal results. This is the minimum recommended amount of sleep for adults, and is one of the easiest ways to combat drowsy driving.
Increase Following Distance
Most drivers are familiar with the three-second rule. This rule is a helpful trick for maintaining a safe following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. By maintaining at least three seconds’ distance, you give yourself a better chance to notice hazards and react in time. This means that you should have enough time to bring your vehicle to a full and complete stop if the driver of the vehicle in front of you suddenly slams on their brakes or there is an unexpected obstacle in the roadway.
The three-second rule only applies in ideal driving conditions when there is adequate lighting. Nighttime driving affords very little light compared to daytime, so you should increase your following distance. Experts advise creating a minimum of four seconds between you and the leading vehicle at night, although you should widen that gap even more if there are other adverse driving conditions, such as rain or fog.
Here is how you can be sure you’re maintaining four seconds of distance when driving at night:
- Pick a fixed object, like a tree or traffic sign
- Start slowly counting seconds when the leading car’s rear bumper passes that object
- Stop counting when your front bumper reaches your chosen object
If you were able to count at least four seconds, you’re maintaining a safe distance for nighttime driving in otherwise ideal conditions. Remember to leave more space if there are any other driving conditions that might make it hard to apply the brakes and come to a complete stop in a timely manner.
Faster is not always better. When it comes to driving at night, slowing down is virtually always the best option.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—NHTSA—speeding directly contributes to 37% of all nighttime driving fatalities, compared with only 21% of daytime driving deaths. The reason why speed-related deaths are more common at night is simple—there is limited visibility.
The average headlight illuminates 160 feet in front of the vehicle. However, when you’re traveling at just 40 mph, you need a full 190 feet to come to a full and complete stop after you first apply the brakes. Since you can’t see as far ahead on the road at night, you have less time to react to upcoming hazards.
Don’t worry about driving at the posted speed limit, either. Remember, the speed limit is set for ideal driving conditions. When you’re driving at night you don’t have the same ideal visibility as on a sunny day. Slow down and focus on reaching your destination safely rather than quickly.
Avoid Two-Lane Highways
If you want to reach your destination safely, it can also be a good idea to avoid driving on two-lane highways at night. According to the NHTSA, two-lane highways create the “‘worst-case’ scenario for nighttime glare.”
Glare occurs when there is a bright light in your field of view. While driving, glare can cause discomfort and can:
- Decrease visibility distance
- Increase reaction time
- Increase recovery time
Recovery time is the time that it takes your eyes to recover from the effects of the glare. At night, the effect of the glare will last longer after passing an oncoming vehicle than it does during the day. Visibility and reaction times are further reduced while your eyes are still recovering from the glare.
You are also more likely to encounter tight lanes, sharp curves, and hills when traveling on a two-lane highway than when you drive on a larger highway with more lanes. Whenever possible, choose safer routes that avoid two-lane highways at night.
Focus On Lighting
Your headlights are the best tool for increasing visibility when driving at night. Mississippi Code § 63-7-13 requires “every motor vehicle other than a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle” to have two headlights equipped on each side of the front of the vehicle. State law further requires that you turn on your headlights from sunset to sunrise.
The angle of your headlights matter, too. If they are pointing too far down, up, or to the side, you will not be able to see as far ahead. If it seems like your headlights are not illuminating very far in front of you, take your car to an auto mechanic to have them adjusted.
You should also take care when using your high beams. If you cannot see much of the road ahead or are traveling in a rural area without adequate street lighting, engage your high beams so you have a better field of visibility.
Never use your high beams if a car is in front of you, and dim your high beams when an oncoming car is within 500 feet of your own vehicle. Improper high beam use could increase the risk of glare in other drivers, potentially causing an accident.
Were You Injured While Driving at Night?
Even if you perfectly follow our top 5 safety tips for driving at night, you can still be involved in a crash. Motor vehicle accidents that happen at night tend to be more severe than those that occur during the day. If you are among those who have experienced a nighttime crash, you probably have a long road to recovery ahead of you.
This is not a journey you have to take on your own, though. When you work with Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law, you’ll have someone on your side who can help deal with the insurance company, prove negligence, value your claim, and make sure that your rights are upheld throughout the entire process.
If you’re ready to move forward with your personal injury claim, contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.