Driving after dark poses special hazards. But these five tips from safety experts will help you steer clear and stay safe while driving at night.
"Although GPS units can be helpful if you're driving in unfamiliar surroundings, their brightly lit screens can distract you at night," says Bill Van Tassel, Ph.D., manager of driver training operations at AAA. That's worrisome considering that driver distraction is a factor in 16 percent of fatal collisions.
Advice: Dim the display, or turn the screen from view and follow the voice commands instead.
"All it takes is a bit of road grime to reduce the brightness of your headlights, interfering with your ability to see and be seen," cautions Jim Gallagher, a safety expert with the professional trucking organization America's Road Team.
Advice: Squeegee your headlights every time you get gas.
Even the cleanest low-beam headlights illuminate just 160 feet or so in front of the car. This might not give you enough distance to react and stop if you encounter a road obstruction such as a fallen tree. Indeed, if you're traveling 50 mph, your car needs 268 feet to brake. So slow down and be on the alert for interference up ahead.
Glare is usually associated with the headlights of oncoming cars. (To protect your eyes, follow the time-tested advice to look toward the right side of the road until the car passes.)
But glare also can come from above. "Some overhead streetlights are so bright that they make it harder to see than if the road were simply dark," says Gallagher, a safety expert with the professional trucking organization America's Road Team. In that case, use your sun visor to block out the brightness.
If the motorist behind you is drowsy or zoned-out, braking abruptly could lead to a rear collision. Instead, tap your brake pedal a few times to engage your brake lights.
"The flashing lights alert the motorist that you're about to slow or stop, so he'll naturally back off a bit," says Bill Van Tassel, Ph.D., manager of driver training operations at AAA. Then you can brake fully.