Posted on 13th Jan, 2017 by Ben Earnshaw
As any driver knows, the dangers of nighttime driving are well documented, and the winter season sees us driving at night for longer and more frequently than any other time of year. But although there are lots of well-known hazards to driving at night, there are others which aren’t quite so obvious.
One of the most obvious hazards of nighttime driving, the lack of light (especially on rural roads) means a sharp drop in visibility. But not only that – it also affects your depth perception, colour recognition and peripheral vision, which can all have detrimental effects on your driving. This can lead to obstacles, wildlife or even pedestrians all appearing in view much more suddenly than they would in daylight hours. Therefore, you should never drive at a speed at which you’d be unable to stop within the distance your headlights show to be clear. This applies especially to HGVs, which have far greater stopping distances than smaller cars.
Similarly, the reduced depth perception means that it can be difficult to accurately judge speed as well as distance, resulting in a greater risk from other vehicles. If in doubt, always exercise caution with your driving.
We all know that our vision is reduced at night, but it’s easy to forget that it actually takes time for our eyes to adjust to darkness after being in a lit environment. Dusk is the most dangerous time for this, as your eyes constantly have to adjust to the changing amounts and angles of light. Meanwhile, the headlights from other vehicles can also play havoc with your night vision. High intensity headlights are becoming more common, requiring your eyes to adjust faster and running the risk of temporarily dazzling you. It can be especially easy to miss the single headlight of a motorcyclist amongst the glare of brighter headlights. You can combat this by avoiding looking directly at oncoming headlights, and if you’re dazzled than slow down to compensate. Once again, the greater stopping distance of HGVs is critical to bear in mind.
As for your own lights, make sure they’re in full working order, and that there is no visibility-reducing film of dust or grime over them. Also, make sure they’re properly aimed, as misaimed headlights can blind other drivers and reduce your own ability to see the road ahead.
We’re daylight creatures by nature, which means darkness has a naturally soporific effect on us. Driving tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk, and has similar effects on our bodies in terms of our reaction times, slowing them dramatically. Caffeine is a great way to combat this – strong coffee is a first resort of many long-haul HGV drivers. However, if you prefer not to consume caffeine, regular breaks are all-important, both to your own safety and to that of other road users. Be wary for the classic signs of tiredness; not just heavy eyelids and drowsiness, but also less obvious ones like missing exits or traffic signs, or an inability to remember the last few miles driven. Managing your energy levels is a crucial skill for any driver, and if in doubt it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
You can get that extra edge with our VT Cameras, which are equipped with LED night sensors for nighttime driving, while our 360-degree four-camera systems allow you to maintain awareness of everything around you. Though driving in broad daylight is always going to be preferable to driving in the dark, there are very few drivers who won’t have to face the prospect at some point. Staying safe is a matter of staying alert – both of your environment, and yourself.
Don’t forget to follow us: @visiontechnique