Stay safe when driving at night

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The National Safety Council® notes that traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day. That’s the case despite roads being considerably less congested at night than during the day.

Many drivers are less comfortable behind the wheel once the sun goes down, and that anxiety no doubt contributes to nighttime driving fatalities. While some motorists avoid nighttime driving as much as possible, some drivers simply cannot avoid it no matter how uncomfortable it may make them. The more time drivers spend behind the wheel at night, the more comfortable they’re likely to be. And much like experience can make for safer nighttime drivers, the following measures also may increase drivers’ comfort levels at night.

• Properly align headlights. Few drivers pay much attention to their headlights, but drivers who feel their visibility is

extraordinarily compromised at night might want to check to see if their headlights are misaligned. The NSC notes that misaligned headlights can impact visibility and negatively affect the visibility of other drivers. When taking your vehicle in for a tuneup, ask your mechanic to inspect your headlights to see if they are aligned properly. Such an inspection should take place at least once per year, but also anytime any body damage has occurred.

• Clean headlights and taillights. Another way to make nighttime driving safer is to routinely clean headlights and taillights. Dirt and grime can gradually accumulate on headlights and taillights, which can make it difficult for drivers to see and difficult for other motorists to notice when drivers are turning. Make cleaning your headlights and taillights part of your routine vehicle maintenance, and inspect and clean both sets of lights after snowstorms or other events that might affect the lights’ effectiveness.

• Take steps to fight fatigue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 reported traffic accidents each year are a result of driver fatigue. Drowsiness is a concern for any motorists driving at night for long periods of time, but some drivers contribute to their own drowsiness by taking medications or consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel. Drivers should never drink and drive, and those who must take medication should avoid driving at night. Take periodic breaks so you can get out of the car and revive yourself with a quick walk and some fresh air. In addition, avoid smoking while driving, as the NSC notes that the nicotine and carbon monoxide from tobacco smoke can further compromise nighttime vision.

• Put your headlights on earlier. Daytime running lights can make it easier for drivers to see and be seen during the day, but such lights only provide a fraction of the light of your car’s nighttime headlights, which you must turn on manually. Turn your headlights on earlier if you find yourself struggling to see as evening transitions into nighttime. Daytime running lights are not designed for nighttime driving, so make the switch to your headlights the moment you feel your vision is being compromised by the night sky.

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