One of the main issues with driving at night is reduced visibility as one’s view is limited to the distance illuminated by a vehicle’s headlights and one does not have the advantage of colour and contrast during the daytime.
For an interesting perspective on what a driver can see view www.seeandbeseen.org.za. This demonstrates clearly that many vehicles – notably older models – travel at a speed beyond the ability of the vehicles light capacity.
Here are some interesting facts related to “night” driving which are listed below.
After driving four or five hours on a sunny day, it may take an hour or more for your eyes to adjust to low light at dusk or night:
• Some people may not adapt well to low light and should avoid driving at night
• Driving at night also reduces your ability to see to the sides of your vehicle
• Regardless of how effective your headlights are, they do not adequately light sections of the road on either side of the vehicle
Glare and recovery time
While driving at night, all drivers are affected temporarily by the glare of headlights and brightly lit signs or buildings:
• Most people’s eyes recover from such glare within three to five seconds
• Recovery times of seven seconds or longer are not uncommon
• Typically, the time to recover from glare while driving at night increases with age
• People with cataracts will find their ability when driving at night is severely impaired
The glare of oncoming headlights greatly increases the difficulty, especially for older drivers as the glare causes the pupils of the eyes to contract, and it takes time for them to re-adjust to less intense light. During this recovery period you may be driving as though blind.
With the onset of winter more of our driving time will spill over into darkness so understand and accept that night driving is always more difficult and dangerous than day driving. In North America per mile driven, the fatal accident rate at night throughout the nation is two-and-one-half times as high as during the day. According to the above, website statistics indicate that even though there are less people moving in traffic at night, 65% of all fatal pedestrian accidents happen at night. The risk of a pedestrian being hit by a vehicle is increased 1100% during the hours of dusk, dawn and night.
While there are no statistics readily available for SA it must be equally as bad or worse, particularly with regard to pedestrians who cross our highways and roads at night. The driver does not see as far, as soon, or as much with almost everything having a different appearance, particularly pedestrians.
So what do we do?
You can make your night driving safer in these ways:
• Most important of all, don’t overdrive your headlights
• Keep your speed low enough – in other words, appropriate use of speed – to be able to stop in the distance you can see ahead
• When passing vehicles, do not stare at their headlights
Use quick glances to:
• Learn lane position of oncoming vehicles
• Learn your own position
• Be certain of the left verge of the road
• Look as far ahead as possible for objects in your path
Till next time – Safe Driving: Especially at night