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Safety tips for driving in the dark

There's no doubt that driving in the dark is more dangerous.

According to RoSPA, 40% of all collisions occur in darkness.

And 20% of serious accidents on motorways and monotonous roads are caused by drivers falling asleep behind the wheel.

But there are some things you can do to reduce the risks associated with night driving.

A car is driven at night 

Top 7 tips for safer night driving

  • Know when to turn on your headlights
  • Check your lights before you drive
  • Keep your windscreen clean
  • Take your time
  • Have regular eyesight checks
  • Study the the road ahead
  • Keep the inside of your car dark

1. Know when to turn on your headlights

You should turn on your headlights one hour before sunset and turn them off an hour after sunrise. This makes it easier for other drivers to see you in dim light.

Use full beam when you need to – but remember to dip your lights if there's oncoming traffic.

It’s also important to think about how to avoid headlight glare when driving at night. If you're dazzled by an oncoming car then avoid looking at the headlights.

Keep your attention on the left-hand kerb (and the white line at the side of the road, if there is one) and maintain a steady speed.

If you have to slow down, don’t slam your brakes on. A sudden stop or change of speed increases the risk of the car behind running into the back of you.

2. Check your lights before you drive

It's a legal requirement that all your exterior lights work, so make sure you check them regularly – regular headlight maintenance takes only a matter of seconds.

If a bulb has gone, get it changed as soon as possible.

3. Keep your windscreen clean

Make sure your windscreen and windows are clean, inside and out, as this should help you see better when driving at night.

Dirty windows might increase glare from other vehicles and you're more likely to experience condensation in your car.

4. Take your time

Driving at night tends to be much riskier than daytime driving, so it's worth reducing your speed and taking your time.

Take regular breaks, too. This is always important when driving long distances, but it's even more vital when you're driving overnight.

Stop for a rest at least every 2 hours. If you need a pick-me-up, have a coffee or other caffeinated drink - just don't drink it while you're on the road.

5. Have regular eyesight checks

It's vital to have your sight checked regularly. This should show up any underlying eye problems that might affect your night vision.

Never wear dark or tinted lenses for night driving.

6. Study the road ahead

Read the road ahead for signs of oncoming drivers. Glimmers of light at the top of a hill or around bends could be the headlights of other vehicles, giving you prior warning.

And watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. After dark they might be more difficult to spot, especially if they're not wearing reflective clothing.

7. Keep the inside of your car dark

Always keep your interior lights turned off while you’re driving at night time. If you can, dim your dashboard lights to reduce any reflections.


Driving at night in the countryside

On rural roads, drive with full beam whenever possible. Make sure you dip your lights when faced with another road user so you don't dazzle them.

Also watch out for animals in the road.

Reduce your speed too - there could be sharp bends, potholes or floods in the road that you could miss when you're driving at night time.


Motorway driving at night

If you're driving on the motorway at night there's a good chance you'll be tired. When the motorways are quiet, it's easy to lose focus and doze off.

This means that, however much you want to reach your destination, it's important not to hurry and take regular breaks.

It can also be harder to judge speed and distance on the dark, so allow plenty of time to join the motorway and avoid overtaking if you can.


Can learner drivers drive at night?

Yes, learner drivers are legally permitted to dive at night and it's a good idea to get experience of it as soon as you're confident enough to do so.

In fact, many driving instructors encourage you to have some lessons in the dark.

This means you’re not doing it alone for the first time after passing your test.

It’s also good to get into the habit early on of following headlight etiquette and looking out for other road users and animals.


Improve your night-driving skills

If you’re a nervous night-time driver or you’ve recently passed your test, you could book a Pass Plus test with a qualified driving instructor.

This includes a section on driving at night.

Pass Plus tests are usually taken by new motorists, but anyone with a full driving licence can do them.


Does it cost more to drive in the dark?

If you have telematics-based car insurance – the ‘black box’ that monitors when and how you drive – then your policy could cost a little more if you drive at night.

This is because telematics policies calculate the cost of your insurance based on the risks you face.

Driving in the dark is statistically riskier than driving during daylight hours, so your insurer might charge you more accordingly.

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