Night Driving Challenges

Driving at night has a unique set of challenges. The best way to understand these is to examine a night time driving image and point out the various items that give rise to these challenges. Gaining awareness and then applying night driving techniques can increase the level of safety while driving at night.

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This picture illustrates many of the challenges of driving at night. While the scenario includes a beautiful sky filled with a fantastic view of the sun reflecting off the clouds, driving is much more difficult at night.

Even though the above picture shows a beautiful scene, it is typical of driving at dusk or dawn when lighting conditions are quite low. By examining the picture, we can find several items that decrease safety.

  • The lane divider separating the two lanes glows nicely in the dark but only for a very limited distance. When passing is allowed, indicated by a dotted yellow line, drivers should be extra careful to not assume the length of the passing lane due to their limited night vision.
  • Understanding road signs at night is difficult due to limited visibility. Signs are not only more difficult to see, but it is also more difficult to understand the text and symbols on the signs. The meaning of most road signs can be understood by their shape and color so it would wise for drivers to refresh their knowledge of road signs by studying the applicable state driver’s manual.
  • Reducing speed at night is required due to limited visibility distance. In this picture, the road is clearly visible for only a very short distance due to the limitations of the vehicle’s headlights. Night drivers should remember that maximum vehicle speed is related to visibility – in other words, reduce speed at night.
  • Limiting distractions while driving is important at all times, but even more important when driving at night. More information can be found by reading “Forms Of Distracted Driving” and “Distracted Driving Items” on the critical topic of distracted driving. Both of these articles discuss distracted driving issues and given the limited visibility when driving at night, distractions become even more dangerous.
  • Road shoulder size can vary dramatically even without changing roads. Given that headlights don’t provide much distance visibility, night time drivers need to scan more often to see both the size of the available shoulder and any shoulder obstructions. 
  • The scenery in the above image is beautiful and worthy of admiring. However, admiring a beautiful scene while driving is also a form of distraction. Be aware that limited visibility provides less reaction time in all cases and spending too much time admiring the scenery at night can reduce safety.
  • Drivers are often more tired and can become drowsy while driving at night. While it is difficult to get good statistics on crashes caused by drowsy driving, it is thought that a large portion of these crashes are due to driving while drowsy. When feeling drowsy, safely pull off the road and take a short rest. If you are very tired, it would be best to find that hotel and stop for the evening. It is sometimes difficult to realize that your driving is impeded so another good idea is to rest at regular intervals.

Driving at night can be a very dangerous time to drive. It is fraught with additional challenges that daytime drivers don’t face. Paying attention to the above items can help increase the safety of your nighttime driving while lowering your stress level.

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