It’s late and you’re tired. The road is dark and the streetlights are few, if any. You’d like to be in your house, in your bed and out of your car more than anything. You rub your eyes and turn up the stereo. You open the window for some fresh air. All of a sudden you get blinded by high-beams streaming through your windshield, or an animal darts out in front of your car out of nowhere, or your tire bursts and your car swerves off the shoulder.
Driving at night can be a scary place, full of unpredictable circumstances. But it doesn’t have to be, as long as you follow a few guidelines and take the necessary steps to prepare you and your car for the road at night.
The National Safety Council states that the rate of traffic deaths is three times greater at night than during the day. Simply put, a lack of light and compromised vision can make the road a dangerous place. Everything from depth perception to colour recognition and peripheral vision are affected when it’s dark. And things don’t improve as we age. Drivers at age 50 may need twice as much light to see efficiently as a 30 year old.
When you’re tired you make mistakes. And being drowsy while you drive may be as dangerous as being under the influence. When you’re fatigued, your thinking is slowed and concentration is difficult, which leads to lousy reaction time.
Then there’s the worst sin of all: driving under the influence of alcohol. DUI is responsible for nearly half of all motor vehicle-related fatalities. The time drivers need to be most aware is during weekend nights. You can guarantee not everyone will be sober with you out on the road. Take extra care to give yourself plenty of space between your car and other drivers.
To protect yourself and your passengers, there are a few steps you can take to make your ride a smooth one when the sun goes down:
1. Prepare your car for night driving by keeping your headlights clean and clear of haze, and making sure all of your lights are working properly. Having a headlight or taillight out makes it hard for other drivers to see you coming and going.
2. Drive sober. No alcohol or drugs that could impair your judgment or reaction time, or make you drowsy.
3. Make sure you have emergency items in your car that are readily available should you need to change a flat or stop at the side of the road. Some orange triangles or large light sticks are much less messy to use than road flares. Make sure your spare is at the proper pressure and that you have a tire changing kit on hand.
4. Drive slower at night and keep a wider distance between the cars in front of you. If someone is driving too closely behind you or tailgating, simply change lanes and let them pass.
5. Be sure to turn your lights on at dusk and not when it’s already dark. The sooner other drivers can see you and the sooner you can see them, the better you’ll all be. If you’re using your high-beams, make sure to turn them off as soon as you see the headlights or brake lights of another vehicle. If an oncoming driver doesn’t turn off their high-beams, be sure to look to the right of the road and do not change your speed.
6. Should an animal unexpectedly jump out in front of your car do not swerve or try to avoid it. Stay straight ahead and do not change your speed. If there is a car behind you and they are not following at a safe distance or are moving at a high rate of speed, they may not have enough time to stop if you suddenly slam on the brakes. Swerving is much worse than braking suddenly. If you swerve to avoid an animal you can easily find yourself in a ditch or worse yet, running into another car in the lane beside you.
7. If you’re feeling tired – stop and take a break. Use the washroom or grab a coffee and do a little jog on the spot to help wake yourself up. Get your blood pumping. If all that fails then take a break and rest. Otherwise you’re a danger to yourself and everyone else you share the road with.
Prepare yourself, check your car and follow these steps to keep you and the ones you care about safe on the road, day or night.
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