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2.8 Driving at Night
You are at greater risk when you drive at night. Drivers cannot see hazards as soon as in daylight, so they have less time to respond. Drivers caught by surprise are less able to avoid a crash. The problems of night driving involve a combination of driver, roadway and vehicle factors.
People cannot see as sharply at night or in dim light. Also, their eyes need time to adjust to seeing in dim light. Most people have noticed this when walking into a dark movie theater.
Drivers can be blinded for a short time by bright light. It takes time to recover from this blindness. Older drivers are especially bothered by glare. Most people have been temporarily blinded by camera flash units or by the high beams of an oncoming vehicle. It can take several seconds to recover from glare. Even 2 seconds of glare blindness can be dangerous. A vehicle going 55 mph will travel more than half the distance of a football field during that time. Do not look directly at bright lights when driving. Look at the right side of the road. Watch the sidelines when someone coming toward you has very bright lights.
Fatigue and Lack of Alertness:
Fatigue (being tired) and lack of alertness are bigger problems at night. The bodyʼs need for sleep is beyond a personʼs control. Most people are less alert at night, especially after midnight. This is particularly true if you have been driving for a long time. Drivers may not see hazards as soon or react as quickly, so the chance of a crash is greater. If you are sleepy, the only safe cure is to get off the road and get some sleep. If you do not, you risk your life and the lives of others.
Test Your Knowledge
- How do you find out how many seconds of following distance space you have.
- If you are driving a 30-foot vehicle at 55 mph, how many seconds of following distance should you allow?
- You should decrease your following distance if somebody is following too closely. True or False?
- If you swing wide to the left before turning right, another driver may try to pass you on the right. True or False?
Study section 2.7 if you can't answer all of these questions.
In the daytime there is usually enough light to see well. This is not true at night. Some areas may have bright street lights, but many areas will have poor lighting. On most roads you will probably have to depend entirely on your headlights.
Less light means you will not be able to see hazards as well as in daytime. Road users who do not have lights are hard to see. There are many accidents at night involving pedestrians, joggers, bicyclists and animals.
Even when there are lights, the road scene can be confusing. Traffic signals and hazards can be hard to see against a background of signs, shop windows and other lights.
Drive slower when lighting is poor or confusing. Drive slowly enough to be sure you can stop in the distance you can see ahead.
Drunk and/or drugged drivers are a hazard to themselves and to you. Be especially alert around closing times for bars and taverns. Watch for drivers who have trouble staying in their lane or maintaining speed, stop without reason, or show other signs of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At night your headlights will usually be the main source of light for you to see and for others to see you. You cannot see nearly as much with your headlights as you can see in the daytime. With low beams you can see ahead about 250 feet and with high beams about 350–500 feet. You must adjust your speed to keep your stopping distance within your sight distance. This means going slow enough to be able to stop within the range of your headlights. Otherwise, by the time you see a hazard, you will not have time to stop.
Night driving can be more dangerous if you have problems with your headlights. Dirty headlights may give only half the light they should. This cuts down your ability to see and makes it more difficult for others to see you. Make sure your lights are clean and working. Headlights can be out of adjustment. If they do not point in the right direction, they will not give you a good view and can blind other drivers. Have a qualified person make sure they are adjusted properly.
Turn Signals and Brake Lights:
At night your turn signals and brake lights are even more important for telling other drivers what you intend to do. Make sure you have clean, working turn signals and stop lights.
For you to be seen easily, the following must be clean and working properly:
- Marker lights
- Clearance lights
- Identification lights
Windshields and Mirrors:
It is more important at night than in the daytime to have a clean windshield and clean mirrors. Bright lights at night can cause dirt on your windshield or mirrors to create a glare of its own, blocking your view. Most people have experienced driving toward the sun just as it has risen or is about to set and found that they can barely see through a windshield that seemed to look OK in the middle of the day. Clean your windshield on the inside and outside for safe driving at night.
Night Driving Tips
Make sure you are rested and alert. If you are drowsy, sleep before you drive. Even a nap can save your life or the lives of others. If you wear eye glasses, make sure they are clean and unscratched. Do not wear sun glasses at night. Do a complete pre-trip inspection of your vehicle. Pay attention to all lights and reflectors and clean those you can reach.
Avoid Blinding Others:
Glare from your headlights can cause problems for drivers coming toward you. Headlights also can bother drivers going in the same direction as you, when your lights shine in their rearview mirrors. Dim your lights before they cause glare for other drivers. Dim your lights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and when following another vehicle within 500 feet.
Some drivers make the mistake of always using low-beams. This seriously cuts down on their ability to see ahead. Use high-beams when it is safe and legal to do so. Use them when you are not within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle. Also, do not let the inside of your cab get too bright. This makes it harder to see outside. Keep the interior light off, and adjust your instrument lights as low as you can and still read the gauges.
If Get Sleepy, Stop Driving:
Drivers often do not realize how close they are to falling asleep even when their eyelids are falling shut. If you can safely do so, look at yourself in a mirror. If you look sleepy, or you just feel sleepy, stop driving! You are in a very dangerous condition. The only safe cure is to sleep.
This will frequently show up on the written exam. So remember that you are required to dim your high-beam headlights within 500ft of an oncoming vehicle or within 500 feet behind a vehicle.
Have a general understanding that high-beam headlights should be used whenever legally possible.
While there is nothing to really memorize here, questions about fatigue come up fairly often. So it's important to be familiar with the below info.