Driving in conditions where your vision is impaired increases the risk of having an accident. This means driving at night is significantly more dangerous than driving during the day.
Legally you are required to use your lights from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise, and any time that warrants the use of lights such as in fog, heavy rain and thick cloud. When you do drive at night being alert and aware is essential to your own safety and the safety of other drivers.
Here are some tips to keep you safe on the roads when driving at night:
- Keep your windscreen and windows clean both on the inside and out. Dirty windscreens impair vision and at night are especially dangerous due to the glare of lights from other cars. Similarly keep your headlights clean – dirty headlights can reduce the efficiency of your beams
- Ensure all your lights are working, front and back. Being visible to other vehicles is important for safe driving at night
- Prevent fatigue while driving at night by taking regular breaks, ensuring you have sufficient ventilation in the car and getting enough food and water
- Increase your following distance when driving at night. Typically you should apply the two second rule when driving during the day. At night however it pays to increase that to four seconds just to ensure you have enough time to spot any hazards
- Speed kills at anytime of the day or night but at night it is particularly dangerous to be exceeding the limit. Reduced light makes it harder to see potential danger spots on the roads. The faster you are going the less time you have to react and the faster you go the more damage you will do to yourself or someone else
- Don’t blind other drivers with your high beams. Dip your lights when you are following or approaching another car, parking or slowing down for police or road works. To avoid being blinded by lights from oncoming vehicles stick to the left and don’t look directly into oncoming traffic. If a car behind you has their lights on high, dip your rear vision mirror to avoid the glare.
Other road users are much harder to see at night so be extra alert for pedestrians or cyclists.
The key to staying safe on the roads at any time is driving to the conditions. At night your ability to see is restricted and so you need to adjust the way you drive.
For more information about driving safely and for other road safety information, please see the New Zealand Road Code at www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/