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10 top tips for driving safely at night

2014-05-21 09:46

DRIVING AT NIGHT: Protect yourself at night by switching on your headlights, make sure they’re maintained and be extra vigilant on the road. Image: Shutterstock

Driving at night in the US accounts for only 23% of all vehicle distance travelled but sees more than 50% of all road deaths for people aged 18 and older. What about South Africa, at night?

Winter is on its way and many SA drivers will leave and return to their homes in darkness on our country’s already dangerous roads.

Les McMaster, chairman of the South African Motor Industry Workshop Association (Miwa) believes that, though stats for South African roads are not readily available, our death toll is similar, perhaps even worse.

"At dusk and dawn," he said, "drivers lose the advantage of the colour and contrast available in full daylight."


There are, he said, a number of ways to protect yourself while night-driving... and here they are:

Let your eyes adjust - The human eye naturally adjusts to darkness but can take as long as 30 minutes to adjust. During that period reduce speed. MasterDrive's Eugene Herbert agrees: "Regardless of how effective your headlights are they do not adequately light sections of the road on either side of the vehicle."

Recovery depends on age - Herbert says drivers should be wary of glare and recovery time. While most drivers’ eyes recover from glare in three to five seconds, recovery times of seven seconds or longer are not uncommon. It depends on age.

McMaster advises: "It may be useful to talk to your optomotrist about anti-glare glasses that can help you see better at night."

Reduce speed – It’s advisable to reduce speed when visibility is poor. Reaction time is typically 1.5 seconds so if a car ahead stops unexpectedly that's how long it will take to hit the brake pedal, let alone actually stop. Reducing speed is one of the best ways to avoid a head-on collision, especially at night when visibility is reduced.

Take a break - Exhaustion severely affects reaction time so take a break every hour or so and don’t drive if you’re tired.

Avoid distractions - Pay attention to all driving safety laws: don't use a cellphone. Passengers should avoid pointing at things outside of the car or socialising in a way that requires your visual attention.

Safety checks before you leave - Before driving in the dark make sure your front and rear lights and all turn indicators are working properly. You should also consider taking your car to a workshop to make sure your headlights are properly directed/aimed - if they're not you will reduce your forward vision and possibly blind approaching traffic.

Use your headlights - Even if it's dusk, it is always better use your headlights while driving. It's not so YOUR can see better but that OTHER drivers can see you. Also, don't be one of the fools who drive unlit in mist and fog who don't understand the principal of 'SEE, AND BE SEEN'.


Adjust your vehicle's cabin lighting - If street lights are causing glare dim your facia / instruments lighting and use your sun visor. Avoid using any other cabin lights when driving.

Keep all windows and headlights clean - Dirty windows can increase glare and refraction, making it more difficult to see the road ahead. Dirty headlights glass can reduce efficiency by as much as 90%. Be sure to clean the inside and outside of your windscreen.

Avoid steamed-up windows - Simply turning on your aircon - even if you are using the heater - draws in dry air which will quickly de-fog the inside of all your car's glass.

McMaster said: "By just being more aware of the above hazards and following these tips, you can protect yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road when visibility is reduced this winter."
Read more on:    south africa  |  crashes

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