Driving at night is much different than driving during the daylight hours, largely due to the reduction in visibility after sunset. The National Safety Council reports that the rate of fatal motor vehicle crashes is three times higher at night than during the day. While limited visibility is a key factor in nighttime auto accidents, it is not the only risk. Driving at night is inherently more dangerous than daytime driving for a few reasons:
Ninety percent of driving reactions depend on the driver’s ability to see what is happening around them. The ability to observe other vehicles, traffic signs, and signals is significantly reduced in the dark. Darkness compromises color recognition, depth perception, and peripheral vision. Because drivers cannot see as far at night as they can during the day, they have less time to assess and react to roadway hazards.
Sunlight is the strongest source of light. When the sun sets, drivers must depend on streetlights, vehicle lights, and other artificial lights to see. While our eyes do adjust to lower levels of light, they are not as efficient as transitioning from dark to bright, or vice-versa, which is why looking directly into the headlights of an oncoming car can feel temporarily blinding.
Age and Nighttime Vision
Unfortunately, as we age, the ability to see at night continues to decrease. The average 50-year-old driver needs twice as much light to see compared to what a 30-year-old driver would need to see at the same distance.
The tiny muscles in the iris (the colored part of the eye) weaken over time and do not respond as efficiently to the need to let light in as they once did. As these muscles become less responsive with age, they also impact the eye’s ability to adjust from light to dark. So, the sight of approaching headlights on a dark road can be a bit jarring.
What Can I Do About Reduced Night Vision?
It is important for every driver to become aware of these physical changes that happen to the eyes and make adjustments to make nighttime driving safer.
To start, make sure your field of vision is as clear and crisp as possible. Clean the inside and outside of your vehicle’s windshield at least once a week with a high-quality glass spray and microfiber cloth to reduce glare. While you are at it, give your headlights a good cleaning. Even a thin layer of grime can reduce their effectiveness by up to 90 percent, severely impacting your ability to see in the dark.
Drivers who wear prescription glasses should make it a habit to clean them daily. Just like cloudy headlights scatter light, grimy glasses do the same. The next time you buy prescription glasses, order the anti-reflective coating–especially if you are over the age of 40.
When driving at night, avoid looking directly into the lights of oncoming vehicles. Instead, shift your eyes slightly to the right and look toward the white line on the side of the road for around 20 seconds. Reduce your speed when driving at night, and never overdrive your headlights.
Finally, take steps every day to protect your eyes from preventable damage. When you are out in the sun, wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim. Intense sunlight affects photoreceptors and increase the time it takes for eyes to adjust to the dark. That means the longer your eyes are exposed to sunlight without protection, the worse your night vision will become.
Does Fatigue Make Driving at Night More Dangerous?
Drowsy driving is another risk facing nighttime drivers across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of one in 25 adult drivers reported falling asleep while driving at least once in the prior 30 days. At the end of the day, more drivers are likely to be fatigued, especially those who work long shifts, drive for a living, or just have poor sleep habits.
What Can I Do to Prevent Drowsy Driving?
If you drive, you have a duty to operate your vehicle in a safely according to traffic rules and laws. That includes being adequately rested. Fatigue is like alcohol in the way it affects a person’s decision-making, reaction-time, coordination, and vision. If you are too tired to drive for whatever reason, you should wait for a safe opportunity to pull over and rest. Signs you might be too tired to drive include:
- Drifting out of your lane.
- Frequent yawning.
- Forgetting driving the last few miles.
- Hitting the rumble strips in the center or side of the road.
- Missing turns and exits.
Is Driving While Impaired More Common at Night?
Drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs are also more likely to be on the road at night, making it a more dangerous time to drive. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that in a single year, drivers involved in fatal evening accidents were 3.6 times more likely to be impaired by alcohol compared to fatal daytime crashes.
What Can I Do About Drunk Driving?
The most effective way to prevent a deadly DUI accident is to avoid driving any time you have consumed alcohol or substances that alter your ability to drive safely. That includes some over-the-counter and prescription medications.
While every state has guidelines for the legal limit for driving, even just a small amount of alcohol can affect driving in ways that make it unsafe. If you plan to consume alcohol or any mind and body-altering drugs, avoid driving. Ask a sober friend to drive, call a rideshare service, or stay put until you sober up. The risk to yourself and others, not to mention hefty tickets and fines, is never worth taking that chance.
If you encounter a driver who appears impaired, do not try to engage them or get their attention. Instead, try to get a good look at their vehicle, including the make, model, and license plate number.
If you can make a hands-free call, call 911 and report the driver. Give your location and a description of the vehicle. Or pull over to a safe location and contact the authorities. That simple step may just prevent a drunk driving accident and save a life.
What Should I Do If I Am Involved in a Car Accident at Night?
Car accidents are stressful and can be frightening, especially at night. If you are involved in a nighttime traffic accident, stay calm and remain at the scene. Assess everyone involved for injuries and call for help.
Once you have received medical attention, speak with the responding officer about what happened. If you notice the other driver swerving, speeding, or driving carelessly in any way, be sure to mention it. Exchange contact information with the other driver, and make a copy of their insurance, license, and registration. (You can take a photo of these documents with your mobile phone.)
From there, it is smart to contact a Philadelphia car accident lawyer before speaking with the insurance company to understand your rights and responsibilities, especially if you are injured. You may be entitled to compensation for your medical care, lost income, and property damage.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers with McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Protect Clients Injured in Traffic Crashes Across the Region
Even if you make safe decisions, you cannot predict the behavior of other drivers. If you are hurt by a careless driver, our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, will use every legal tool available to build a strong case for you. Trust the team with over $200 million in settlements to lead your claim. Call 215-569-8488 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have locations across Greater Philadelphia to serve clients throughout the region including Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania, Wilmington, Delaware, and all of New Jersey.