This article appears in Fall Healthy Living 2019.
As the calendar falls back to shorter days, it’s time to take extra care on the road because driving in the dark is more dangerous.
Road fatalities are three times as likely during the night than in the daytime, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Most people probably do not appreciate just how dangerous driving is, said Dan Strollo, executive director of In Control, a nonprofit offering the nation’s first state certified closed course, hands-on crash prevention training.
In the 1970s the United States was the safest place in the world to drive but now ranks generally 40th, Strollo said.
In addition to the likelihood of vehicles being operated by intoxicated or drugged drivers, nighttime driving is more dangerous because of driver fatigue.
“Research suggests well over half of us are driving tired daily,” Strollo said.
We’re also sharing the roads with less experienced drivers such as school-age kids from late afternoon into the evening, he said.
Plus, it’s simply harder to see at night.
“One of the biggest problems when driving in darkness is reduced visibility — both the ability to see and to be seen,” said William Van Tassel, AAA manager of driver training programs.
Not only is your sight limited to the distance lit by your vehicle’s headlights, a driver also does not have the advantage of color and contrast that aids in visibility in daylight, Van Tassel said.
Driving into the glare of oncoming headlights makes driving difficult. Van Tassel offers these tips
1. Just before the vehicle passes your vehicle, drop your eyes downward to the right side of the road
2. You should see a white painted line there, which you can use as a reference point to judge your position in your lane.
3. As soon as the other vehicle goes by, get your eyes back up and looking well down the road.
Simple steps to stay safe
• Slow down and adjust your speed because nighttime conditions merit more caution, Strollo said. Decreasing speed by a few miles per hour can make a big difference in stopping distances, ability to steer yourself to safety and staying in control of your vehicle in an emergency.
• “Clean, clear windshield and windows are extra important. Road dirt and grime on headlights can greatly reduce the amount of light they project,” Van Tassel said.
• Dim interior dashboard lights. “In darkness, the less light in a vehicle’s interior, the easier it is for the driver to see outside of the vehicle,” Van Tassel said. Do not turn on a vehicle’s dome or map lights when driving unless absolutely necessary.
• Don’t drive tired. Consider a brief nap, Strollo said.
• Aim headlights properly — follow instructions in the owner’s manual.
• Getting older? Get your eyes checked and talk to the doctor about your night vision, Strollo said.
• Put down the phone and drive engaged.
“Not only does the brightness of your cellphone mess with your eyesight, but just looking at one text has been found to tie up your brain for the next 27 seconds or so. Just asking Siri or Google to do something for you distracts you just the same,” Strollo said.