Tuesday, 22 September 2015

How difficult is it to drive at night?

How difficult is it to drive at night?




Driving at night can be an experience like no other.  Driving at night feels mysterious, fun, and even exciting — for some people, it's one of life's simplest yet most addictive joys. It's perfectly fine to enjoy a good night drive, but don't forget to focus on what's most important of all — your safety and the safety of other drivers.  Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day, according to the National
Safety Council.


90% of a driver’s reaction depends on vision, and this can be seriously limited after sundown.  If at all possible, plan your route so you are aware of any hazards such as sharp corners or steep descents where your observation may be compromised.  Here are some notes which you may find helpful when driving between sunset and sunrise.


Finding your way in the dark.
This can seem relatively easy on streets in built-up areas with a substantial amount of street lighting, especially when beginning from a carpark that is well lit-up.  In this situation, some driver’s accidentally forget to switch their headlights on.  Make sure your headlights are switched on between sunset and sunrise. 


Twilight is one of the most difficult times to drive, because your eyes are constantly changing to adapt to the growing darkness. There is less contrast, colours will fade, and edges become indistinct.  Keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists as they may be outside of the path of your lights.

Use anything that will help guide you.  Line markings will help with establishing your road position.  Use lines on the left if the headlights of oncoming traffic are too bright.  Cat’s eyes – reflective studs on the road surface – will help you follow the road.  Your tyres will also make a noise when driven over the studs – this can help you correct your position.  Blue reflectors, in case you have ever wondered, indicate the presence of a fire hydrant.  Reflective markers on guide posts on either side of the road are also very helpful.  Remember the red ones are on the left, and the white ones on the right.  As a general rule, the closer the guide posts are, the tighter the curve.

Lights of vehicles ahead of you can be helpful.  Brake lights can give you an early warning to reduce speed, and likewise the headlights of cars ahead can provide information of what’s further ahead.  For example, the sweep of headlights of vehicles approaching a bend can indicate the sharpness of the bend, especially where advisory signs are out of, or yet to come into, view.

Visibility
For the best possible visibility, keep windows, mirrors and lenses of lights clean.  Moisture, grime, dust etc. will break up light increasing glare making it difficult to see, and your overall judgement.  Light bulbs should all be working, and windscreen wipers, washers and demisters should be working properly.

Keep distractions in the car to a minimum.  Try not to use interior lights or screens such as satnav as light reflecting off windows can be distracting and reduce visibility.  Also, avoid wearing tinted glasses.

When leaving lit-up areas to unlit, wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness before increasing your speed.

Always drive so that you can stop safely within the distance you can see.  Overdriving your headlights doesn’t allow you a safe distance when a hazard such as an agile wallaby comes into view.  It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for “eye shine” caused by animals’ eyes reflecting the glow of headlights.  Remember the stopping distance at 60kmh is 45m (54m in wet weather) and 100kmh is 98m (122m in the wet). So, without that amount of vision you will need to reduce speed.

High-beam and Low-beam
In built-up areas with street lighting, dip you lights to low beam.  When using the indicator, be careful not to switch the headlights to high beam if the same switch is used for both indicating as well as headlights.  Dipping your headlights may be helpful when going around a left-hand bend, or approaching a high crest due to the direction of the light beam.  If you are driving in heavy rain dipped headlights reduce the amount of glare reflected on high beam – you need to also reduce speed in this situation.

On unlit roads put your headlights on high beam and only dip them for other road users.  As a guide, dip headlights within 200 metres of the any vehicle ahead or an oncoming vehicle. When following other vehicles, leave a long enough gap so as not to dazzle the driver in front. When a vehicle is overtaking another vehicle, the vehicle being overtaken will dip their headlights when the overtaking vehicle is alongside, and likewise the overtaking vehicle will switch to high beam at the same moment.

Dealing with glare
Headlights shining directly into your eyes may dazzle you, and the light intensity can bleach the retinas of your eyes causing you to see nothing for a few moments.  To avoid this, look to the left side of the road and use visible line markings, guide posts to help you maintain a safe road position.  It doesn’t help you see what’s ahead though, so you will need to reduce speed also.  If you are dazzled, slow down or stop if necessary until you can see clearly again.

Reflected light from the headlights of following vehicles in your centre mirror can be quite bright even when the vehicle behind is using low beam.  This can be reduced by operating a lever usually found under the mirror.  Pull the lever under the mirror toward you for the anti-glare position, and push away to return to the normal position.

Tiredness
Night driving can be tiring due to the lack of head and eye movement as you become focused on the headlight beams.  This can be further exacerbated by the lack of vision and colour at night.  The greatest risk of tiredness-related collisions is between 11.00pm and 6.00am, so best to avoid those times if possible while in the early stages of your driving experience.

Learner Drivers’ Logbook
In Queensland, it is mandatory for learner drivers using a logbook to include 10 hours of night driving experience – best not to do all 10 hours in the same night. 

Remember that getting distracted while driving can be deadly (especially at night), and keep your attention on the road. If you're confident in your safe driving habits, you'll be able to responsibly relax, tune in, and enjoy your ride!
 

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