Some drivers dread getting behind the wheel at night and avoid it as much as they can because of the reduced visibility that comes with night driving.
Last year alone, there were over 24,000 collisions at night, where alcohol wasn't a factor, resulting in over 3,000 injuries and 64 deaths. These collisions made up almost half of all collisions that occurred in 2008.
For most drivers night driving is something that can't be avoided, but, fortunately, collisions like these can be.
There are several things drivers can do to increase their visibility at night, without having to go out and purchase a pair of high-tech night-vision goggles.
Pedestrian and vehicle collisions can be avoided by following a few simple tips:
- The law actually requires the use of headlights from half an hour after sunset until half an hour before sunrise, as well as any time visibility is poor.
- It is recommended, however, to have your headlights on at all times. Studies have shown that vehicles driven with their lights on all the time are less likely to be involved in collisions than those operated with their lights on only at night.
- When driving at night, you should be able to see 12 seconds travelling distance in front of you. If you are driving on a road that is not lit by street lamps or other lighting devices that means you should be using your high beam headlights and be looking beyond the part of the road illuminated by your lights.
To dim or not to dim
Drivers are often unsure when the appropriate time is to dim their headlights - that is, when to switch from high beams to low beams.
Many drivers make the mistake of dimming their headlights too soon to ensure that they do not blind the driver of an oncoming vehicle. While the intent behind this is good, these drivers are putting themselves at risk by unnecessarily reducing their visibility.
You must dim your headlights at least 200 m (650 ft) in advance of oncoming vehicles and keep them dim until the vehicle has passed. It is not necessary to dim your headlights well before this distance. If you are driving a 100 km/h, this means you should dim your lights when the oncoming vehicle is about 8 to 12 seconds away.
In addition, when you are being passed or following another vehicle, you must keep your headlights on low beam until the other vehicle is at least 100 m (330 ft) away.
Drivers are often unsure whether they must dim their headlights for oncoming vehicles when travelling on a divided highway. If you are on a divided highway where the distance between the roadways is 22 m (70 ft) or more, you do not need to dim your headlights.
Glaring down the enemy
Glare from other vehicle's lights is a necessary evil of night driving. Without lights, nobody would be able to see where they are going.
To reduce glare from vehicles to the rear, adjust your rearview mirror or turn it to 'night' if your vehicle is equipped with a day-night mirror. Dimming your dash lights can also improve your ability to see the road.
Night driving doesn't have to be scary. If you drive carefully and use your headlights correctly, you shouldn't have a problem reaching your destination safely.
For more information on night driving or proper use of headlights review the Saskatchewan Driver's Handbook.