Humans are not nocturnal creatures and, as such, our eyes don’t function efficiently at night. Night-time driving is already a daunting prospect for some, but this may be many drivers’ first time back on poorly lit roads in a year, so we’ve put together a few tips to help you prepare.
1) Clean your windscreen
Our windscreens get far dirtier than we realise, and it’s no surprise that this reduces visibility even on the brightest of days, let alone at night. If you are setting out on any journeys after dark, make sure your windscreen is spotless, inside and out.
Before you start cleaning the external window, don’t forget to lift your windscreen wipers. Squirt a diluted glass cleaner across the windscreen and firmly scrub the glass in circular motions with a microfibre cloth, focussing on any visible imperfections. Once you are confident that you’ve removed all the grime and dirt, buff the glass with a dry microfibre cloth to remove any remaining streaks.
You can use a similar method for the inside of your car, but make sure you directly apply the diluted glass cleaner to the microfibre cloth as spraying onto the interior windscreen can leave smears. Again, rub the dirt away with small circles before buffing the glass with a second cloth. Try to avoid touching the windscreen with your hand as this can leave oily streaks on the freshly cleaned glass.
2) Get your eyes checked
Humans are diurnal, meaning that we should be active during the day and resting at night. Our eyes are designed for daylight, but there are a few issues that can result in some people having even worse night vision than others.
Glaucoma is an optic nerve condition caused by abnormal pressure inside the eye. People with glaucoma often report difficulties on the road caused by glare, low light and low contrast situations, increasing the dangers of driving in the dark. If you are struggling with your eyesight, book yourself in for an eye test as soon as possible.
If your results conclude that you suffer from a condition that could hinder your night-time driving ability, it is recommended that you avoid driving at night and find another means of transport.
3) Watch out for wildlife
From the Scottish Highlands to Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, the United Kingdom is famous for its picturesque landscapes, featuring winding country lanes and woodland creatures just waiting to hop in front of your car.
A lot of British wildlife is active at night, so expect to encounter some unusual guests on the road. If travelling at a sensible speed, most animal-related accidents can be easily avoided. Unfortunately, if a small animal like a fox or badger crosses your path, it is advised that you don’t stop - if you do, a more serious road accident may occur.
Larger mammals pose a great risk to everybody in the car. If driving around a bend in a hilly or forested area, you may have a chance meeting with a deer - frozen to the spot! In this instance, it is recommended that you perform an emergency stop as their size and mass could cause significant damage to you, your passengers and your vehicle.
4) You can’t be too cautious
Whenever you drive, you should remember every detail you spent memorising when you first took your test. However, this is especially important at night - your muscle memory may be useful when checking your blind spot, mirrors and peripherals, but night-time driving calls for a double - if not triple - check.
Although other drivers are experiencing the same road as you, some may have impediments that affect their driving. Furthermore, the majority of alcohol-related accidents take place at night, so if you encounter a vehicle driving erratically in any way, keep your distance and alert the authorities.
5) Look after yourself
Even if you check every detail, wear the right glasses and have a squeaky-clean windscreen, you can’t beat your own fatigue. We’re not designed to be awake at night and focusing on one thing for hours on end. A single cup of coffee at the start of your journey can help to keep you awake, but as you drive further into the night it is less than advisable to continue knocking back caffeine as this can have a detrimental impact on your performance.
Falling asleep at the wheel is far too common and all too dangerous. While finding a place to stop and rest for the night is preferable, there are several ways to keep yourself alert. Drive with the windows open, listen to upbeat music or even talk to yourself. If your journey is particularly long, take someone along for the ride or plan ahead for a place to sleep.