Going for a nighttime drive is one of life’s small pleasures in the warm summer months. The kids are in bed, the air outside is excellent, and the roads are calm and quiet, save for the occasional pedestrian or car zooming down the highway.
Driving at night is a great time to enjoy the stillness, decompress, and let go of the stresses of the day. Or perhaps you’re on your way to work the night shift or headed to the airport for an exciting adventure.
Whatever your reason, it’s crucial to remember that it’s not without its dangers.
It’s true that fewer crashes happen at night compared to the day, and it’s to be expected — there’s less traffic on the road during the twilight hours.
But accidents still happen. In 2019, 510 thousand crashes happened between midnight and six in the morning, with 269 thousand occurring between 12 and 3 a.m.
Why do so many accidents happen during these hours? One of the main causes is a lack of light. Save for street lights and the occasional flash from other vehicles, nighttime drivers face difficulties with visibility.
Hazards can be near impossible to see, and in more rural areas of the country where there’s little artificial light, drivers might barely be able to see beyond the hood of their car.
There’s also the social element. Bar and club-goers typically drink into the early hours — especially during the weekend — and some get behind the wheel to drive home.
It’s little coincidence that more accidents happen around the time bars close for the night.
So what can you do to stay safe when you go out for a drive at night?
5 Ways to Stay Safe While Driving at Night
Don’t Drive While Tired
Fatigue is a common cause of car crashes, and it only takes a couple of seconds of resting your eyes to turn into a devastating accident. It goes without saying that you should only drive at night if you’re awake and alert.
Avoid relying on stimulants like coffee and energy drinks to counter sleep deprivation, and if you want or need to go for a drive but start to feel drowsy, take a nap before you head out.
However, accidents can still happen if you’re wide awake, as others on the road at night might not follow this advice. This makes it vital to follow these other tips for staying safe on the road at night.
Keep Your Windshield Clean
Something you might not think about while driving at night is your windshield visibility. Dirt, grime, and smudges on your windshield can seriously impair your vision while driving at night.
Not only that, but they also produce glare, so if a car approaches you with full beams on, it can prevent you from seeing your surroundings completely.
To minimize glare, check your windshield for a hazy film or streaks on the glass before you drive.
Using a car window cleaning tool is ideal, but an easy alternative is a clean cloth (not a sponge — which will leave residue behind!), warm water, and a bit of good old elbow grease.
Avoid Driving When Clubs Close
Next up on our list of tips for driving at night is to avoid driving when the clubs close.
Of course, not all social drinkers get in the car to drive home after a night out, but driving under the influence remains a common cause of car accidents.
To avoid the risk of getting involved in a crash with someone driving while intoxicated — who may be speeding or slow to react, or may not even be looking for other vehicles on the road, there are a few things you should do.
To avoid the risk, you might want to go out for a drive before bar and club-goers head home, especially during Friday and Saturday nights or federal holidays.
Reduce Your Speed
This might be a given but it’s extremely important while you’re driving at night. Sometimes you’re unaware of how fast you’re going, but it doesn’t hurt to check down at the speedometer every once in a while.
Driving down a highway at the maximum speed limit with the windows down can be freeing, but if you’re going fast and encounter a hazard, you have less time to react and stop in time.
Keeping your speed low helps you see clearly, avoid hitting pedestrians or animals crossing the road, and safely judge the distance between your car and other vehicles on the road.
Avoid Staring at Bright Lights
Last on our list of safety tips for driving at night is to avoid staring at bright lights.
Have you ever been scrolling through social media on your cell phone at night in a dark room, only to look up and not be able to see a thing?
It takes time for our eyes to adjust to being in the dark, and when we look at a bright light and then look away, it’s like hitting the reset button.
But sitting in the safety of your home in the dark is far different from staring at a bright light while driving at night, as the latter can result in a catastrophic accident.
To avoid being blinded by lights while driving, keep your dashboard lights at a low setting, avoid looking at your phone — even hands-free, as the light will still impede your vision — and never look directly at the headlights of oncoming vehicles.
To ensure you don’t dazzle other drivers and pedestrians, switch to dipped headlights when others are around and only use full beams on unlit roads so you can see the road clearly.
If the worst happens and you are in an accident while driving at night, your first step should be to call the police and seek medical treatment.
If your accident was caused by someone else — such as a speeding or intoxicated driver — you should also consider speaking to a car accident lawyer.
They may be able to help you claim compensation, which can cover your medical bills, any lost wages you suffer because you’re unable to work, vehicle damage costs, and more.
Accidents at night are not as frequent as daytime collisions, but that doesn’t mean there’s no risk.
At night, it’s more difficult to see. Especially if you live somewhere where inclement weather frequently hits. It’s extremely hard to drive at night and in the rain.
Slick backroads can turn into death traps. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your windshield is clean, your lights are bright, and that you’re driving with a sound, awake mind.
You have to be aware of not only your driving but others. Even if you consider yourself a good driver, that doesn’t mean others necessarily are. At night, you have to make sure that your reflexes are on extra high alert.
Whether you’re just going on a nighttime joyride or you have to drive at night for work, these tips apply to everyone who gets behind the wheel.
If you follow these tips when driving at night time, you’re much more likely to stay safe, whether heading out to relax and take in the cool air, driving through the night on a road trip, or on your way to work.