Driving at night time can feel very different to getting behind the wheel during the day. Drivers who are usually confident in daylight hours can find themselves becoming nervy - and potentially more likely to make mistakes - once the sun goes down.
However, there are plenty of simple steps you can follow to ensure that you are just as comfortable, no matter what time you head out onto the road.
Keep your windscreen clean
A useful bit of advice from the RAC is to focus on how clean your windscreen is.
One reason that driving at night time can be a little nerve wracking is that visibility is naturally not as good as during the day. This can be exacerbated if your windscreen is not at its cleanest, as any buildup of dirt can further impede your vision.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s very easy for windscreens to steam up on the inside, while the dirty air blown at the glass by your heater can cause a bit of a hazy film to build up, increasing the glare from oncoming vehicles’ headlights.
Before setting off, make sure your windscreen is clean, inside and out.
Use your lights correctly
Drivers are required to ensure they have fully functioning lights at the front and back of the car when hitting the road at night, so be sure to regularly check that your lights are working properly.
It’s important that you get the timing right for using your lights, too. The Institute of Advanced Motoring recommends getting them on from around an hour before sunset and for up to an hour after sunrise, so you can ensure that you are always sufficiently visible to anyone else on the road.
Winding country lanes can be a nervy experience at night, so using your full beams can give you a better idea of what’s ahead. But be sure to dim them again if you come across other vehicles to ensure that you don’t dazzle the driver.
On that note, don’t be tempted to turn on your fog lights unless you actually need them to see in foggy conditions, as they can also dazzle drivers. To understand when to use fog lights, read our guide.
Protect your eyes
Take care that you don’t get dazzled either. When driving at night, be careful not to look directly at the lights of an oncoming vehicle, as it can very easily impair your vision and lead to an accident.
Driving in the dark is more visually challenging, as there is poorer road visibility combined with the glare of headlamps from other road users – so it takes even more concentration than usual.
If you are having issues driving at night, particularly when it comes to things like clearly reading road signs, it’s a good idea to get your eyes tested.
You also might want to speak to your optician about whether an anti-reflection coating on the lenses of your glasses will help, too.
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If you’re tired, take a break
Research has shown that driving when tired can be as dangerous as getting behind the wheel when you’ve had too much to drink. Your reaction times are slower, you may not be as observant of what’s going on around you and accidents become far more common.
So if you’re driving at night and starting to feel those eyelids droop, stop and take a break. A strong coffee can help, too, but just a little bit of time away from the road can provide the boost you need.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents suggests that if you’re travelling with a fellow driver, it may be worth sharing the driving in order to reduce the chances of fatigue causing an accident.
Watch your speed
When driving at night, you need to be extra vigilant about your speed.
With reduced visibility, it’s important to make sure you are confident that you could stop safely within the distance you can see ahead of you. Typically, headlights on a dipped beam offer around 30 metres of visibility.
You want to give yourself as much time as possible to react to any changing conditions in the road ahead of you, so being a little more cautious with the accelerator is definitely a good idea.
Besides, you save less time by driving faster than you might realise.
Watch out for people and animals
There are plenty of nocturnal animals, particularly foxes, that are more likely to run out in front of you at night.
As well as keeping an eye out for pedestrians who might be less visible due to wearing dark clothing, it’s also important to keep alert for any animals that might suddenly appear on the road. Read more about how to drive safely if there are animals on the road.