Driving at night can be dangerous. About 56 percent of crashes generally occur between 6pm and 6am the next morning, according to statistics by the Road Transport Management Corporation (RTMC). For this reason, the Automobile Association (AA) says, it is important that people understand how to drive better in dark conditions.
“Firstly, and most importantly, anyone who suspects they have problems seeing at night should consult a doctor or optometrist to get their eyesight checked. Be honest with yourself about this as it is a safety aspect that needs checking. Equally important, anyone who needs prescription spectacles to drive must ensure they wear them, especially in low light conditions. Don’t let vanity outweigh safety it’s not worth it,” the AA urges.
Another tip to driving better at night is to have a clear route planned, where possible one with good road lighting.
Other useful tips from the AA on driving at night include:
Make sure your headlights and brake lights are in proper working order. If you are towing, make sure your brake lights and indicators are connected properly and working before leaving.
Keep your front and rear windscreens clean. Make sure your defogger is working properly.
Avoid keeping your gaze focused at a single distance, as this can cause eye fatigue.
Do not drive faster than the range of your vision – you must be able to stop at all times, within the length of the road illuminated by your headlights.
Turn your headlights on before sunset, and keep them on after sunrise. This will make you more visible to other motorists.
Don’t blind other motorists. Dip your headlights well before an approaching vehicle is within range. Also dip your headlights when driving behind another vehicle. If the other driver doesn’t respond, flash the beam back to high for a second, and then dip again. Don’t retaliate by keeping your high beam on, two blinded drivers instead of one is merely doubling the danger.
Maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle ahead of you. Remember, your reaction time may be slower at night, because you are seeing less, but have to respond in the same time as you would in daytime.
The AA says it is also advisable to drive to the conditions of the road, and your abilities, so driving slower at night is a good option. This is especially critical when considering the results of a recent study by the Automobile Association of America (AAA) which suggest that halogen headlights, found in over 80 percent of vehicles on the road today, may fail to safely illuminate unlit roadways at speeds as low as 64kph.
The AAA noted, “The testing measured the distances at which modern headlights illuminate non-reflective objects on both low-beam and high-beam settings. These findings indicate that when travelling on unlit roadways, today’s headlights fail to light the full distance necessary for a driver to detect an object or obstacle in the roadway, react, and come to a complete stop.”
Driving at night may be intimidating for some drivers, especially new drivers, so it is important you are comfortable, and able, to negotiate driving at night before embarking on a long trip which may involve a lot of night time driving.
“If you are going to be driving at night, ensure you are well rested before getting behind the wheel, as being fatigued while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk,” the AA warns.
About The Automobile Association of South Africa
The Automobile Association (AA) has been the trusted champion of the South African motorist and traveller for over 85 years. Along with our AA Accredited Sales Agent stores located countrywide, the AA offers access to over 50 benefits on 1 card as well as other travel and mobility services that extend far beyond 24-hour roadside assistance - from technical and legal advice, to emergency rescue services, roadside security and a mobile app suite. The AA offers specialised apprenticeships to help motor industry players build in-house skill, and short skill courses for individuals.
Automobile Association of South Africa (AA)
AA Public Affairs
011 799 1126 or 083 386 6954