Nervous about driving at night? You have every right to be. According to one study, 60% of drivers have driven while they were exhausted, and 37% have actually fallen asleep at the wheel. Unfortunately, exhausted and impaired (under the influence of alcohol or drugs) drivers tend to be on the roads more at night. It’s also just plain harder to see, especially for older drivers. If driving at night is unavoidable for you, these tips will help you stay safer out there.
1. Don’t Drive Drowsy
If you’re exhausted and can barely keep your eyes open, stay off the road. A sleep-deprived driver is no better than a drunk driver in many circumstances. Need a jolt of energy for the drive? Skip the caffeinated soft drinks that can cause you to crash even harder once the sugar wears off, and try eating some energy-fueling protein, fat, and healthy carbs instead. That combination might help give your body the fuel it needs to stay on its game for a short drive in the dark.
2. Make Sure Your Headlights Are Operating At Peak Performance
Just because your headlights passed inspection doesn’t necessarily mean they’re great at illuminating the road in front of you. Make sure your headlamps are clean, polished, and bright; it can be worth polishing the glass in older, well-loved vehicles (you can buy headlight polishing kits inexpensively at any auto parts store) or replacing the headlights altogether. You can also double-check that your headlights are aimed the right way. They should point downward and toward the right side of the road. This illuminates the road for you and helps prevent a blinding glare straight into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
3. Take Care of Your Vision
No matter your age, driving at night poses unique challenges. If you wear eyeglasses, make sure your prescription is up-to-date, and spring for anti-glare coating on your lenses. This helps drastically cut the glare you’ll see through your specs and your windshield, making it easier to see what’s actually going on out there. Protecting your vision during the daytime by wearing sunglasses can also help reduce eye strain and fatigue, which in turn helps you drive safer at night.
4. Plan Your Route Intentionally
If you have to drive at night, consider sticking to the best-lit roads in the neighborhood–and the ones with the fewest potholes. That shortcut through the backroads might be the shortest and least-traveled way to reach your destination, but when it’s dark out, you’re likely better off staying on the main drag as much as possible. Planning a longer trip that involves driving at night? Check your route against Google Maps or another online map service, and plan to stay on major highways.
5. Slow Down
It should go without saying, but we’ll just drop it here anyway: when you’re driving in the dark, slow down. Make sure that you’d always have time to stop by the time your headlights illuminated a danger in the road. Consciously remember to scan side streets and driveways for approaching traffic; many drivers are less cautious at night because they assume they’re going to be the only cars on the road. By slowing down a little and being aware of the hazards out there, you’ll greatly reduce the chances that you’re in an accident. And you’ll be able to drive with more confidence, no matter what the road throws your way.