Can Night Driving Be Safer?

Driving at night means sharing the road with the dark, with headlight glare, with creatures of the night, and with drivers who may have had too much to drink.

No doubt about it, night-time driving can be hazardous, but since truckers often drive at night it has been essential for us to develop some strategies to lower those risks.

Because of the reduced visibility, drivers of trucks and cars alike have less time to respond in a crisis situation. Safeguard yourself and others by ensuring that you, and your vehicle, are visible and in top working condition.

When the sun goes down…

Many drivers do not realize how fatiguing a long-distance haul can be on their bodies and minds. A truck driver’s number one strategy for a safe trip is to be well-rested before even climbing into the cab of a truck and getting behind the wheel.

Headlights and high beams, being the main source of light at night, should always be adjusted properly. Dirty headlights provide only half the light they should, making it more difficult for you to see, and to be seen.

Headlight aim should be inspected routinely by licensed mechanics. Glare from misadjusted headlights can blind drivers coming toward us, or shine too brightly in the rear view mirror of a driver in front of us, and we know it.

Brake lights, reflectors and signal lights also need to stay clean and in good working order, so other drivers on the road can see you and be certain of your intended action.

A clean windshield at night is even more important than during the day, since light bouncing off dirt can cause glare of its own and potentially blind the driver in a crucial situation.

On The Road Strategies

·   Slow down. Remember that when you increase your speed by 10mph, your ability to recognize objects decreases by 20 ft.

·   Braking Space. Allow at least one extra second for every 10 ft of vehicle length, plus one additional second for speeds over 40 mph and for each adverse driving condition such as rain, snow, etc. (including darkness).

·   High Beams. Switch to low beams when an oncoming vehicle is five hundred feet away or when you are within five hundred feet of the vehicle you are behind.

Do not use high beams in fog or snow.

If an oncoming driver blinds you with high beams, do not look directly at the lights. Instead, look forward and slightly to the right and use the right edge of the roadway as your steering guide.

·   Twilight. Turn on your headlights at early twilight so other motorists can see you.

Give yourself extra leeway during this period of variable visibility. During twilight, objects can often seem further away than they are, so be alert.

Dusk is a good time to check your fuel tank. In some areas, gas stations may close for the day. Running out of fuel not only means delay and discomfort, but also real danger.

·   Watch for Wildlife. About 10% of Wadhams’ vehicle incidents annually are due to striking an animal on the highway.

·   Vehicle Breakdown. If your vehicle breaks down, pull to the side of the road and onto the shoulder. Turn on your hazard lights. For two-lane traffic on a two-way street, transports should carry reflective triangles in the cab to place in front of and behind the vehicle, as well as 100 ft behind the second triangle, to make sure oncoming drivers have every opportunity to see them.

On a divided highway, the first cone should be placed 10 ft from the CMV, a second 100 ft from the rear, and a third 200 ft from the rear.

Hopefully, commuters are not faced with a long night drive too often. Keep these best practices in mind, and you’re likely to plan more safely for your next overnight haul.

Don Guay

Don Guay

A 23-year veteran of the New York State Troopers, Don Guay spent six years with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit doing roadside inspections. Today, he uses his experience and training to ensure RIST drivers and equipment adhere to the highest standards. As safety manager, Don is responsible for overseeing inspection reports, safety department checks, investigations, and training. He jokes that he left the “dark side” and came to the good side, representing and protecting RIST drivers, our customers and their freight, and the general motoring public. Safety is more than a checklist; it is our top priority.