Night driving can be a dangerous time for many motorists. The evening hours present greater risks to drivers and nondrivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington, DC, found, in its analysis of traffic and crash data, that a large percentage of traffic-related fatalities occur between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m.
Driving at night may be a necessary task for many motorists. Regardless of the distance being traveled, a night driver must remain alert and more vigilant when on the road. In a matter of moments, a situation that may be benign to a driver during the daytime may become a potential hazardous one when the sun goes down. If you have to drive at night, know the risks associated with this task and the things you can do to reduce the potential for harm, including injury or fatality.
Risks Associated with Night Driving
Night driving presents you with any of the following risks:
- Loss of visibility – as night falls, your ability to see clearly is diminished. This increases the potential for unseen objects to appear in your view suddenly. This could reduce your ability to react properly and avoid disaster.
- Unexpected roadside hazards – a loss of visibility corresponds with an inability to spot hidden roadside hazards. This can include animals that wander across the roadway, improperly lit construction hazards or a stranded motorist who may accidentally wander into the roadway.
- Inattentive drivers – a driver who is sleepy or tired can create a dangerous situation. The same holds true for a driver who is distracted or temporarily takes their eyes off the road.
- Impaired drivers – drivers under the influence of drugs (including those legally prescribed by a doctor) and/or alcohol and other intoxicants are more likely to be on the road during those hours that, according to NHTSA, create a toxic situation on the roadways at night.
This is a small sample of the risks that are accelerated during the night. Your ability to react or identify these risks is important to your safety and that of others in the vicinity of your vehicle.
Safety Tips for Night Driving
Dealing with the risks that are present when driving at night requires the adoption of certain behaviors that reduce the potential for harm. These tips take a common sense approach to driving at night and provide a sound guideline to keeping safe at night.
- Keep all vehicle lights clean and free of debris – making sure that the headlights and tail lights on the vehicle are clean and are able to illuminate the road properly. This will bring light to those hazards that may be present when driving at night.
- Stay on well-lit roads – a roadway that has proper lighting provides a safer experience than those that are not.
- Practice defensive driving techniques – most accidents and fatalities that occur as a result of night driving are the result of dangers whose severity, in many instances, could be reduced through a defensive driving stance.
The bottom line, when it comes to driving at night, is that you as a motorist can limit the loss that occurs at night by being a more aware and reactive driver.
Recognizing Risks and Taking Action
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Being defensive, exercising caution, maintaining awareness, are all keys to reducing the risks associated with nighttime driving. Taking the time to understand the risks that lead to fatal motor vehicle crashes can make a real difference in keeping you safe when on the road after dark.