There are many helpful tips for safe driving in general, but those pertaining to night driving are unique and important to understand to keep yourself and others safe.
- Get sleep.
The most obvious tip involves getting adequate sleep every night to reduce the risks of drowsy driving. Your circadian rhythm, the body’s internal sleep clock, automatically dips once the sun sets. This dip is compounded if you are already running low on sleep. Doctors suggest that you prioritize sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours per night, but if you are planning on driving late into the night, you should try and get even more sleep the night before to avoid putting yourself and others at risk.
- Maintain your headlights.
Your headlights are often your only source of visual information. As a result, it’s critical that they are functioning, cleaned, and aimed properly. If necessary, read your owner’s manual to see how to readjust your headlights. In order to prevent headlight haze, purchase a headlight polishing kit and periodically use it to give yourself peak visibility.
- Avoid staring at oncoming lights.
Your eyes take a while to adjust to nighttime conditions. Although it may be difficult, do your best to avoid blinding yourself by staring at oncoming car lights. This allows you to maintain your night vision and also keeps your eyes focused on the road ahead of you. If the car behind you has bright lights or high beams, readjust your mirrors or flip them to the dimming setting.
- Keep your eyes moving.
To prevent eye fatigue while night driving, you should continuously scan your field of vision instead of focusing vaguely ahead. By remaining alert, you prevent your eyes from relaxing and transitioning towards sleep.
- Stop if you are getting drowsy.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, “Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive—say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep—it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.” If you’re driving late at night during peak sleepiness cycles, it is vital that you stay alert for signs of drowsiness, such as:
- Eyes involuntarily closing.
- Crossing road lines.
- Driving over a rumble strip.
- Having trouble focusing your vision.
If you are experiencing these factors, do not keep on driving. As mentioned, trying to power your way through drowsiness, especially if you have a long way to go, is extremely dangerous. Pull over in a safe, well-lit place, set an alarm, and get some rest. Even if it’s only an hour-long nap, that time can give you the energy to wake up refreshed and capable of resuming your drive.
The potential repercussions of drowsy driving are clearly dangerous, and these are even irrespective of other hazardous driving conditions, including driving on black ice and snow or bad driving habits like texting or using social media. However, we know that sometimes you just can’t avoid a nighttime drive.
If you have one upcoming on your agenda, ensure that you get plenty of sleep the night before, drink caffeine, and follow the tips above. Taking proactive measures protects you, your passengers, and other drivers sharing the road.