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Preparation

Night driving. You either love or you hate it, there doesn't seem to be any middle ground, personally I like it as it does have distinct advantages over day time driving.

One important and frequently overlooked piece of advise I can give is 'check your lights regularly' it may seem glaringly obvious (sorry about the pun) but so many drivers don't. Having checked ALL the inside and outside lights why not carry a spare set with you in the car at all times? It is also worth checking the manufacturers handbook to see how easy or complicated a light bulb change may be. Just how many instructors does it take to change a bulb? I hear you ask. In some cases a headlight bulb WILL need a mechanic and a tool box that wouldn't disgrace a Concord workshop involving the removal of half the front end of the car (ridiculous) or having to access the bulb by jacking the car up off the ground and removing the road wheel. But don't despair most are quite easy with a little knowledge and some simple tools. Also make sure that all the lenses are clean and in good condition without any cracks or discolouration.

A clean windscreen is essential when night driving (inside and out) this will help to reduce light flares, hallows and starburst distortion from any light source.

There are two vulnerable times when driving is at its highest risk. These are dawn and dusk. Out of the two the dawn drive is likely to be in the highest risk category. Lets first consider the late afternoon to night drive. As the light fades our eyes take time to adjust and we start to loose our good quality colour vision. Photoreceptors in the eye are formed of two types Rods and Cones. The rods are more numerous, some 120 million, and are more sensitive than the cones, however, they are not sensitive to color. The 6 to 7 million Cones provide the eye's color sensitivity and they are much more concentrated in the central yellow spot known as the macula. The Cones are less sensitive to light but are able to perceive finer detail and more rapid changes in images. When driving at night our perception of speed and distance are greatly reduced. This important factor must be taken into account for us to successfully negotiate our environment in poor light conditions.

When oncoming lights from other vehicles are either badly adjusted or the driver has failed to return his lights to the dipped setting the best policy is to divert your eyes to the left of your vehicle trying to avoid the dazzle, if the light persists do not retaliate by putting your lights onto full beam as this will only blind the other driver but simply slow down and stop if necessary. It is also important to bear in mind that brake lights are strong in the day time but at night time their amplitude appears to be greater therefore, when sitting in a queue or waiting at a junction, spare a thought for those behind you who are sitting in the glare of your lights, take your foot off the brake pedal and apply the handbrake. This also applies equally to direction indicators being left on for an undue period of time and rear fog lights being left on after clearing the fog. With regard to fog lights, if you have front fog lights use them in extreme conditions in conjunction with your side lights and not the headlights. You will get a better penetration into the fog without having headlights reflecting back into your face. One final piece of advice regarding fog lights, don't be one of the ever increasing number of drivers who consider it is cool to drive with as many lights on as possible. It is not and merely indicates the mentality and immaturity of the driver of the vehicle.

Lights from behind cLightsan be just as irritating but remember you do have an anti dazzle adjustment on your centre mirror, but not on the door mirrors.

The night to dawn drive brings its own unique problems. The usual scenario in this instance is that the driver has been driving for most of the night and may have had little or no sleep the day before. Under these circumstances tiredness through sleep deprivation and fatigue take their toll. It is vital to recognise the signs and symptoms. These include constantly rubbing tired eyes (sand in your eyes), violent jerks of the head from nodding off (micro sleeps), heavy eye lids and lack of concentration. Having recognised the signs its time to take immediate action. If you have a second driver in the car change over and let them drive for a while, if however you are the sole driver you must either find the nearest place to take a break (stop for the night) or if you still have to continue take a caffeine break, exercise and get some fresh air. Turning up the radio, winding down the window and heating in the car DOES NOT work. In the worst case scenario strong coffee taken before a power nap of no more than 20 minutes will get you through the next two hours or so but that is all and you will soon be back to square one. The best policy is to take a complete break and plan your journey a little better next time. TIREDNESS KILLS

Night drive pro's and con's

There are a number of advantages and disadvantages for night driving. Apart from the tiredness and fatigue aspect lets look at the disadvantages whilst driving at night. In no specific order consider:

Advantages