At night, on the road, in the light of the headlights, it is difficult to distinguish what may cross or along the road. This is the reason why many motorists are apprehensive about driving at night. While the majority of road traffic is done during the day, 40 to 50% of accidents occur at night. However, driving at night is not particularly dangerous if you follow a few simple prevention tips and your vehicle has good lighting on the road. Even driving at night can sometimes be a very pleasant experience.
Part 1 of 3: take precautions
Step 1. If in doubt, turn on your lights
In our latitudes, night does not fall suddenly and during twilight, "between dog and wolf", some motorists turn on their lights, others do not. This period is one to two hours depending on the season. This is why it is prudent, when the brightness begins to drop, even slightly, to turn on its lights. It is not so much to see the road, which is still clearly visible, as to signal you to other road users. This is all the more useful if these users have the setting sun in their eyes.
If, in France it is simply recommended to light your fires at dawn and dusk, it is an obligation in some foreign countries, under penalty of sanctions. In California, for example, the lights must be turned on half an hour before sunset and turned off half an hour after sunrise, not counting days when visibility is poor
Step 2. Drive slowly
Your speed at night should be slower than during the day. This is for one simple reason: visibility is much lower at night, even on lit sections of the road. Reaction times are extended in the event of an obstacle or a person on or next to the roadway. As you never know in advance what will appear in the light of the headlights, you must remain in control of your speed, in this case drive slower than daylight, which will allow you to get around an unexpected obstacle. Your field of vision, defined by your lighting, is actually the space in which you have to stop if there is a problem.
If there was any advice to give when driving at night, it would be to respect the speed limits indicated by the signs, not the speeds that you think are safe. Don't be afraid to ride below these permitted speeds if the field of vision is restricted, such as in a turn or at the top of a hill. In both cases, the road is momentarily in the dark and therefore potentially dangerous. If other users are in a hurry, let them pass
Step 3. Beware of drunk or tired motorists
When we look at the statistics, we see that, in an accident at night, more drunk or tired people are involved than during the day. The consequences can be dramatic: there are four times more accidents at night than during the day, due to drunkenness or fatigue of drivers. In both cases, reaction times lengthen, making these motorists dangerous. Try to spot these vehicles with strange behavior and try to avoid them by anticipating.
- It is during the nights of the weekend (Friday and Saturday) that there are the most drunk drivers on the roads: they celebrate in their own way the end of a hard week of work. During certain holidays, the number of drunk or simply "gay" drivers is singularly high. Thus, the 1er January, during the night or in the early morning, the road is especially dangerous with the returns of New Year's Eve.
Step 4. If you are tired, take regular breaks
We recommend that you be vigilant in order to detect possible dangerous drivers on the road. Along the same lines, you should be wary of your own fatigue. Drunk or tired, the symptoms are almost identical: decreased alertness, longer reaction times, loss of landmarks and distances, zigzags on the road, etc. To avoid all these risky behaviors, you have to stop often, get out of the vehicle, do a little physical exercise, eat something, drink a coffee… You will take the opportunity to refocus before getting behind the wheel.
If you're too tired to drive because your eyes close on their own, pull over on the side or at a rest area and take a nap. Better to be late, but whole, than to fall asleep at the wheel, even a few seconds and have an accident
Step 5. Watch out for animals crossing the road
This is particularly true in rural areas. Animals ignore the Highway Code and cross wherever they want. They are often seen at the last moment and the accident can be serious with big game, such as a deer or a wild boar. The animal can be killed, the occupants of the vehicle can suffer the same fate or be seriously injured and the car destroyed. Slow down in areas with plenty of game, often marked with signs. In this regard, certain seasons (end of autumn - beginning of winter) are more accident-prone than others for animals such as deer, even if such an accident can occur at any time of the year..
- If, in the light of your headlights, you see a large animal (for example a deer), the first instinct is to want to avoid the animal by turning to one side or the other. It is a mistake. It is often this departure from the road that is the cause of very serious or even fatal accidents. The ideal is to drive more slowly. However, if you are going a little too fast, try to brake straight ahead while maintaining your trajectory and if this is not possible otherwise you will have to hit the animal.
- These animals can often be seen by their eyes which reflect the light of the headlights. If the animal is not looking at you, it is almost impossible to see it before the shock. However, many look to you to identify danger and that's when you spot two glowing eyes. Often the animal is quite far away and then you can react in time. In conclusion, if you see two bright circles moving in the distance, it is definitely an animal: you have to slow down.
Step 6. Your eyes should be movable
Logically enough, the field of vision is reduced at night and we tend to focus mainly on the portion of the road illuminated by the headlights. To drive safely, you need to have constantly active eyes. Regularly scan the road in front of you, looking for any obstacle. Also look to the sides and in your side mirrors. By doing so, you are less likely to be surprised at the last moment. Don't drive looking only at the middle white line! Not only does it reduce your field of vision, but over time it has a slightly hypnotic effect and your alertness decreases.
Over the kilometers, the calm and the virtual absence of vehicles, added to the obscure environment, make you feel in a state, all things considered, quite close to a trance. The driver is not sleepy, but he is elsewhere, which lengthens reaction times, potentially causing accidents. Always be vigilant and in control of your vehicle! Your life and the lives of other road users are at stake
Step 7. At night, drive as confidently as during the day
It sounds like the obvious, but whatever precautions you take during the day also apply at night, maybe even more so. Buckle up your seat belt, adjust the seat and mirrors, turn off your cell phone and only think about the road while driving. These simple actions and these recommendations make it possible to avoid accidents during the day, but also at night.
Part 2 of 3: improve your visibility
Step 1. Your headlights, mirrors and windshield should be in good condition
It's quite logical: at night, your life depends on the proper functioning and adjustment of your headlights. If not, your chances of having an accident are severely higher. Wash your optics (headlights, fog lights, indicators, etc.) two to three times a month. Thus, you will not have any loss of brightness. Check in particular the correct functioning of the bulbs. Do it during the day, it's much easier than at night. You can be fined for lack of lighting.
To see well, it is essential to have a clean windshield, windows and mirrors. As you already know, you shouldn't wipe the windows in a hurry with your hands, because apart from spreading the dirt, you will only add sebum. Use a chamois or a microfiber cloth
Step 2. Put on full headlights when you can't see well
The full headlights are then a safety element, because they allow you to see well, as long as you use them properly. They can only be put on if visibility is very poor and there is no one in front or in front. With this position you can see further and more to the sides.
- Switch to low beam if someone is in front of you or is approaching in front of you. The power of these headlights is such that it blinds motorists, the risk of an accident is then great.
- When approaching a curve or at the top of a slope, it is very common to see the lights of an oncoming car. If you are then in full headlights, you must switch to low beam so as not to blind the driver of the oncoming car.
Step 3. Consider adjusting your headlights
Over time, the headlights become disordered both in height and transversely. The best headlights in the world will be of no use if they are not properly adjusted. If you notice that the road in front of you is not well lit, your headlights are out of adjustment. A mechanic is able to pay them correctly, quickly, and for a small fee.
You can adjust the headlights yourself. Each model has its own standards which you will easily find in the manufacturer's manual. When you make the settings yourself, you spend a lot more time than a professional who is equipped
Step 4. Look to the side
If you are blinded by the full headlights of the oncoming vehicle, this is what to do. In theory, everyone removes their full headlights in the event of a crossing. However, in reality, this is not always the case: some users forget to remove them. If you come across one of those unscrupulous or distracted motorists, avoid looking at their headlights, you will simply be blinded. Then look on the right side by guiding you thanks to the side bands, this should not prevent you from seeing what is happening elsewhere. Slow down and also look at the road ahead.
If the car behind you is in full headlights, move the tab under the mirror forwards or backwards depending on the model to put it in the dimmed position. You can also adjust it so as to send back its own headlights to signal it forgetting (this is however prohibited by the Highway Code!)
Step 5. Consider installing or turning on your fog lights
If you regularly drive at night in areas with frequent fog, consider putting on your fog lights. If you don't have one (which is rare on cars today), it would be prudent to fit a pair. They are installed in the lower part of the front bumper in order to be able to better illuminate the roadway (in general, the fog is a little less thick at ground level). When purchasing, check with the dealer that the lights you have chosen fit well on your vehicle.
In fog, do not use full headlights. The explanation is simple: the thousands of water droplets that make up the fog each reflect light back at you. A wall of diffused light then forms and it is almost impossible to drive
Step 6. Wear anti-reflective glasses
The headlights of oncoming cars (and especially full headlights) are a real problem for drivers who wear prescription lenses. In addition to normal blindness, there are problems of reflections and diffraction on your glasses. The glare is then important. Fortunately, nowadays, it is possible to take the option of anti-reflective treatment at the time of purchase, which allows the diffused light to be better polarized. Glare is then less.
If you can afford such a pair of glasses, leave them in the car at all times, as you will always have them available
Part 3 of 3: Have fun
Step 1. Stay awake while talking to a passenger
Once you have fully integrated the main principles of night driving, it can become a real pleasure, even relaxing, if in particular you stop every now and then to enjoy the nightlife. For a moment, your car can become the place for an interesting discussion with your passenger. Speaking prevents falling asleep while driving. Being in a calm, confined space surrounded by darkness can lead to more intimate words.
The discussion should not turn into heated debate, however. There are certain subjects which often lead to fiery positions, which is not good for calm conduct. In addition, you may be more focused on the discussion than on the road
Step 2. Listen to some music
At night, sounds and music take on a whole new dimension. While driving, take the opportunity to listen to your favorite music on your stereo device. At night, everything is quieter, quieter and in these conditions, you can hear details that you wouldn't hear during the day. You will take full advantage of your "playlist". There is no such thing as a "little night music", everyone can play whatever they like, disco, electronic music, hard rock … it's up to you! Here are some titles, but this list is far from exhaustive … very far:
- Kavinsky - "Nightcall"
- Chromatics - "Back From the Grave"
- DJ Shadow - "Midnight in a Perfect World"
- Kyuss - "Gardenia"
- Allan Kingdom - "Evergreens"
- Golden Earring - "Radar love"
- Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich - "Hold Tight"
- Daft Punk - "Contact"
- Charles Mingus - "Moanin '"
- Quiet Riot - Party All Night
Step 3. Enjoy the nighttime attractions
Driving at night can allow you to meet people or frequent places that you would never meet otherwise. Some cities have intense night lives, while during the day they seem sleepy. You will then meet beautiful specimens of "night birds" which only live at night. Even driving in the open countryside can take on a special “flavor”. The road seems different to you, buildings or any place during the day, seem to come to life at night, because they are illuminated. If you are tired, feel free to stop by to see what the hell is going on. Here are some nightlife hotspots that you won't see until after dark:
- restaurants or cafeterias that serve late at night,
- bars or nightclubs (don't forget: "drink or drive: you have to choose"),
- rest areas,
- panoramic paths and viewpoints over an illuminated city,
- “drive-in” type places (cinemas, restaurants, etc.).
Step 4. Enjoy this moment of calm (while being focused)
Driving at night is an experience like no other. At night, everything is quieter, your engine purrs gently with a muffled noise, all sounds are deadened, it is as if you were in space. Driving in this context has something mysterious, fun, even enjoyable, some motorists love to drive in these conditions! This exhilarating feeling shouldn't make you forget the essential thing, which is that you are not alone on the road. At night, any inattention can lead to drama, keep your eye on the road! If you follow all the safety instructions, you will be able to fully enjoy your course, in complete relaxation while being on your guard.
- More often than not, cars are fitted with an interior rear-view mirror which can be placed in the “night” position to reduce the lights of the cars behind you.
- When driving at night, don't be distracted or focused on the road! In the latter case, you might be somehow "hypnotized" by the white lines, so you end up driving "on autopilot" which is very dangerous. To avoid this, move your head often and watch what is happening behind and to the sides. Even roll down a window to let in some fresh air.
- Check or have your headlights checked regularly, especially before the bad season, when you are more likely to drive at night, given the short duration of the day. If you are doing a check yourself, either stand in front of a reflective surface or have someone help you (who manipulates the controls, while you see if everything is operational).
- Wearing a seat belt is compulsory for everyone, driver and passengers alike.
- Don't drive drunk!
- The rumor that wearing a pair of glasses with yellow or orange lenses would allow you to see better at night is false. At most, objects appear brighter.
- Don't drive without a license!
- Never travel without your papers, otherwise the gendarmes will be made suspicious in the event of an inspection.
- If you are tired, don't drive! In some countries, it is even punishable by law, under the abolition of the faculties of reaction. Either way, it's very dangerous!