The Basics of Nighttime Driving
Arizona may not use Daylight Saving Time, but that doesn’t mean the days don’t get shorter later on in the year. In the middle of summer, the sun sets at about 7:15 p.m., while in the winter it sets nearly two hours earlier, at about 5:30 p.m. Those early sunsets occur during some of the busiest times on Arizona’s roads, when people are driving home from work and taking the kids to and from after-school activities. And driving in the dark can be dangerous.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 50% of car crashes happen at night. The fatality rate for a car accident after dark is about three times higher than one that happens during the day. So keep our safety tips in mind when you’re making your “winter” commute!
Problems with Driving at Night
What is it about nighttime driving that makes it so difficult?
- Poor visibility: As the sun goes down, people don’t have the depth perception they do during daytime hours. They may think something is farther away than it is, and it can be difficult to tell what the object ahead on the road actually is. It’s also harder to distinguish colors at night, and peripheral vision is worse than it is during the day.
- Sleepy humans: People are more likely to be tired at night. While feeling exhausted after a long day of work will still affect you at around the same time of day, as the sun goes down, it makes you even sleepier. Falling asleep behind the wheel happens more often than you think. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 103 million people have fallen asleep while driving—and 13% of people polled say they fall asleep at the wheel at least once a month!
- Night blindness: Night blindness affects the cells in the retina that allow a person to see properly in dim light. Night blindness has many different causes, most of them the result of an underlying condition. Nearsightedness, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetes are just a few conditions that can cause night blindness.
How to Stay Safe While Night-Driving
While night-driving, we Arizonans should watch for all the same things we do during the day. But we have to look a little harder, as animals and objects are more difficult to see. (And it can be difficult to drive safely when the headlights from another vehicle are shining into your eyes.) Here are things all drivers can do to combat the obstacles of driving at night:
- Make sure your headlights are in good working condition. Even when headlights are performing optimally, low beams will only light the road 160 to 250 feet in front of a vehicle; high beams will illuminate about 350 to 500 feet. A vehicle traveling 60 miles per hour will require about 200 feet to stop. Even when high beams are used, this doesn’t leave a driver a lot of time to react, so be careful. Of course, always replace headlights that burn out, even if one is still working.
- Position your headlights properly. Headlights need to be positioned so that they are slightly lower than the center of the vehicle. This will allow them to illuminate the road without blinding other drivers. Many headlights are not positioned correctly even in new cars, so you should get them checked and readjusted if needed. Headlights should always be clean, as this will allow more light through and shine more clearly on the road ahead.
- Don’t look into approaching headlights. Oncoming vehicles’ lights can temporarily blind a driver, making it easier to get into an accident during those moments. When approaching a vehicle, don’t look right into its headlights. If a vehicle behind you is approaching and has its high beams on, the rear-view mirror can be adjusted to reflect the light backward to alert the driver.
- Recognize animals by the road. Elk, coyotes, bobcats, deer, and mountain lions are all part of Arizona’s landscape. Any of them can dart out onto the road at night. When driving, take notice when you see two shining spots in the road or at the side of the road. These spots are likely your headlights being reflected in an animal’s eyes; you’ll probably see those spots before seeing an animal. Take notice, and slow down just in case.
- Be awake and alert. This can be difficult to do after a long day at work or running errands, but there are things you can do to ensure you are not one of the many who fall asleep behind the wheel. Listen to music, open the window a crack to let the wind refresh you. And of course, get a full night’s sleep before driving. That’s the single best thing a person can do to combat fatigue behind the wheel.
Just because Arizona doesn’t use DST doesn’t mean it doesn’t get dark earlier in the state. As drivers, we all need to know the problems we’re likely to encounter when driving at night, and how to prevent them from happening. If you’ve been hit by another driver at night—for example, a fatigued long-haul truck driver—call The Husband and Wife Team at Breyer Law Offices, P.C. We’ve got the experience to review your case and see how we can help you get compensation. Your consultation is free, so call (602) 267-1280 for more information!