Safety tips for driving at night

According to research from the National Safety Council, driving at night is more dangerous than any other time of day, with traffic deaths three-times greater at night compared to daytime hours.

The reason for this is that driver vision — the most important sense necessary for driving — is compromised at night, including depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision.

Additionally, the glare from an oncoming vehicle with their high beams on can temporally blind a driver.

Headlights on vehicles can only illuminate about 500 feet (with high beams), and 250 feet for normal headlights. With visibility limited, there is less time to react to something unexpected in the roadway.

Driving at high speeds at night with reduced visibility makes the situation even more dangerous. Drivers should not “out-drive” their headlights. In other words, do not drive faster than you can stop within the distance illuminated by your headlights.

At 50 miles per hour it takes about 268 feet to slow down, including the distance traveled during reaction time. That would easily “out-run” the illumination of your normal headlights.

Remember that the posted speed limit is the highest legal limit under ideal conditions and not necessarily the highest safe speed. One of the best plans for night driving is to simply drive slower.

Age is also a factor when it comes to night vision, which is the ability to see in low light. At 50 years of age, a driver needs twice as much light to see as well as a 30 year old driver.

At 60 years of age and older, night vision is further reduced, making evening driving a risk — especially on unfamiliar roads.

Nighttime also brings on fatigue, and with the fatigue comes reduced alertness. Driving long periods of time late at night can further reduce reaction time. The only safe cure for fatigue is to get some sleep.

Driving while sleepy is not only dangerous for the driver, it also puts other drivers and passengers on the road at risk.

Try to follow these safety tips for nighttime driving from the National Safety Council.

Drivers of all ages:

• Aim vehicle headlights correctly, and make sure they’re clean.

• Dim lighting on dashboard.

• Look away from oncoming lights.

• If eyeglasses are needed, make sure they’re anti-reflective.

• Clean the windshield to eliminate streaks.

• Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time.

• Stop driving when you are fatigued.

Older drivers

• Have annual vision exams.

• Reduce speed.

• Take a driving course; even experienced drivers can benefit from a refresher course, and some of the rules have probably changed.

• Minimize distractions at night, like talking with passengers or listening to the radio

• Check with your doctor about side effects of prescription drugs.

• Be honest about your ability to drive after dark and limit driving to daytime hours if necessary.

With a little forethought and planning, you can make driving at night safer for you and everyone on the road.

Rita Hodges is the Ellis County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Visit Rita at the Extension Office located at 701 S. I-35 E, Waxahachie, TX 75165; phone at 972-825-5175; or email at rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu. Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status. The Texas A&M University System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the County Commissioners