According to the AA, because of the reduction of traffic flow, fewer accidents occur after dark than during the day; however, the proportion of fatalities under the veil of darkness is much higher. Factors most commonly associated with night accidents are fatigue, reduced visibility, lack of attention and often the influence of alcohol. Depth perception is also reduced at night, resulting in impaired judgment and delayed reflex reactions.
Approximately 20 percent of adults suffer from defective vision to some degree, ranging from mild short sightedness to night-blindness which is unusually common amongst road users, some of whom are unaware that they have a degree of night blindness. After leaving a brightly lit place, it takes about 30 minutes before the human eye can see at 80 percent efficiency, and up to an hour before night vision is at its best. Motorists who find that night driving is a severe strain on their eyes should consult a doctor of optometrist, who may recommend that driving after dark be avoided altogether.
"Avoid driving long distances at night, and if you do have to drive, ensure that you are alert and that you are driving responsibly", says the AA. "Objects that are poorly lit are best seen if you focus your vision slightly to the one side, as peripheral vision is less affected by poor light than central vision", the AA adds.
Reduce your speed at night so that you never drive beyond the range of your vision and you are able to stop within the length of road illuminated by your headlights. Increase your following distances at night and, unless you are about to overtake, keep the vehicle ahead at such a distance that it is just in the far limit of light from the dipped beam. Remember that foglights are banned unless it is misty or raining and can cause eye fatigue for those following your car, so only use them if you really need to.
Headlights should be dipped well before an approaching vehicle is within range of your vision. "Resist the temptation to retaliate when other drivers to not dim their beams, as this causes further danger - having two blinded drivers doubles the risk", says the AA. Motorists should adjust their headlights periodically, especially when driving at night and with heavier loads than usual which may tilt the car and dip the beam which will be angled to shine too far ahead and dazzle oncoming drives without properly illuminating the road.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
011 799 1126