Car Pro Advice: The Dangers Of Nighttime Driving

Car headlights at night
Recent research from AAA found that European vehicles equipped with adaptive driving beam headlights (ADB) increase roadway lighting by as much as 86 percent when compared to U.S. low beam headlights. Credit: AAA
Daylight Saving Time ends Sunday, November 1, at 2am as we turn our clocks back an hour, and that means youíll be driving in the dark more than you have in over six months. Nighttime driving can be one of the most dangerous activities you do on a regular basis. Consider this: almost 50 percent of all fatal car accidents occur at night and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and road fatalities occur at a rate three times greater at night than during the day. That is an ominous statistic to say the least. However, there is really no reason that night driving has to be unsafe. Here are some helpful tips to keep your visibility high and make the trip to your destination a safe one.


Obviously, thereís less light available for you at night, so one critically important step youíll want to take is checking your headlights. Make sure both of them work. If not, replace both of them to avoid having one light stronger or weaker than the other. Check their housings and lenses too. Make sure theyíre clean, clear, and aimed correctly.

Headlights before and after cleaning
Aged Headlights Reduce Lighting by More Than 80%

If your headlights look severely cloudy or foggy most auto part stores sell buffering kits that can help. Walmart auto centers provide this service relatively cheap. To get your headlights aimed perfectly, follow the instructions in your ownerís manual. This could take some trial and error. Usually, it is not a difficult thing to do. According to AAA, Professional and DIY restorations returned light output by up to 70 percent.

Another headlight tip: Always avoid staring at oncoming lights because they can seriously disrupt your concentration at night. Do your best to not gaze into other lights on the road, especially oncoming high beams. It is a good idea, too, to turn your headlights on one hour before dusk and one hour after dawn to increase your vehicleís visibility.

Speaking of high beams, the AAA recommends using them whenever possible at night. However, a recent AAA study found that a majority of Americans (64 percent) don't regularly use them. This means when driving at moderate speeds like 40 mph with low beams on, motorists will not have enough time to appropriately react to something or someone in the roadway. AAA says high beams improve forward illumination by 28 percent in comparison and are much more effective at providing the proper amount of light when traveling at higher speeds.

Adaptive driving beam headlights use high beams while eliminating glare for other drivers
Adaptive driving beam headlights may increase roadway lighting up to 86%

With Adaptive Driving Beam headlights, AAA says the high beams are always on and when another vehicle is detected, that area is shaded to prevent glare that would otherwise interfere with the other driverís field of vision.

Dim Your Dash Lights

Most people do not realize that driving with your dash lights on maximum brightness can compromise your forward vision. To help combat this simply dim your instrument panel and dash lights.

Clean Your Windshield

For driving after dark, make sure your windshield is clean. It might seem like common sense, but having a clean windshield, inside and out, makes a huge difference.

Other Tips

Realize that at night, your depth perception, ability to distinguish color, and peripheral vision are all worse in low-light conditions, so staying alert and sober is one of the best drowsy driving remedies. If possible, have someone else in the car to talk to, have some coffee or other caffeine products on board, or simply pull over in a safe location and stretch for a few minutes, you can even try rolling down the window.

Especially on a trip, it is important to keep a roadside emergency kit stashed in the back of their vehicle. You never know when an unexpected event will keep you from reaching your destination. A few necessities you should include: jumper cables, a first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, roadside flares, a quart of oil, and a multi-tool or miniature toolkit.

Finally, we all understand the dangers of alcohol. One thing everyone should realize is that even if you are sober and alert, other people will get boozed up and jump behind the wheel at night, therefore, putting you in potential danger should you be unfortunate enough to cross their drunken path. Just a reminder, make sure you always wear your seatbelt, maintain a generous following distance, and use extra caution at intersections. Please, donít text and drive, day OR night.

Driving at night doesnít have to be unsafe. Use your best judgment and if you can avoid driving late at night, particularly on weekends, you should.

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