Cars are a huge part of our lives. We use them so much that we often forget how dangerous they can be, and how careful we need to be when driving them. In 2013, there were 30,057 car accidents that resulted in fatalities, which is around an average of 82 deaths per day.
Despite there being 60% less traffic on the road, more than 40% of all fatal car accidents happen at night. Driving at night requires you to be alert and aware of your surroundings at all times. When it is dark outside, driving becomes increasingly more difficult. While the human eye is able to self adjust to there being less light, being able to fully see everything around you is still a hard task.
Winter is coming, and we all know what that means; minimal sunlight during the day. Pretty soon when you are driving your kids to school, or coming home from work, the sun will be nowhere in sight. Knowing important steps to take before you start driving in the dark can save you from being in an awful accident.
Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe while navigating the roadways in the dark:
What to Do With Your Lights
Even new cars have been found to have headlights that are not aimed correctly. This is a DIY type of task that can easily be done over the weekend, but it will require some patience as you try to get your lights just right. http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/a257/1347221/
Dim Instrument Panel and Dash Lights
While having your headlights on is very important to nighttime driving, not all light is good. The different, neon colored lights that illuminate your dashboard can be quite distracting and can cause you to lose focus as you are driving. We recommend turning your dial back a little in order to keep your eyes more focused on the road.
Add Fog Lights
Fog lights are not a necessity, but when it is dark, cold, and possibly snowing outside, they sure do help a ton. When regular headlights hit fog, the particles reflect the light in many different directions making it almost impossible to see. Since fog usually hovers around one to two feet off the ground, fog lights are mounted lower than regular headlights, and are aimed towards that fog free pocket in order to illuminate as much of the road in front of you as possible. Having fog lights added to your car is that extra step not everyone takes that could keep you and your family safe when it is hard to see outside.
What to Do With Your Eyes
Do Not Stare at the Lights Around You
It is quite difficult to keep your eyes off the lights from incoming traffic, but please do. Not only is that driver with their high beams on making it difficult for you to see the road as he passes by, but the longer you stare into their lights, the longer it takes for your eyes to readjust to the dark. If that annoying driver happens to be behind you, try not to look back at their lights in your mirrors either. Simply readjusting your mirror so it reflects the light away from you and back towards them will help you from being blinded.
I am sure you have seen the infomercials for the yellow tinted sunglasses that will change the way you drive at night and make you see more clearly. Do not believe the hype. The Sunglass Association of America has stated that those sunglasses are a placebo effect and do not enhance your vision at all. It is your safest bet to just rely on your own two eyes to get the job done.
Look for Lit-up Retinas
Not only do you need to be looking out for other drivers on the road, but you need to be looking out for animals as well. If you see a pair of yellow dots looking back at you, slow down as quickly and safely as possible and let the animal move out of your way. If you attempt to swerve out of the animal’s way, you could face even more danger by running into a pole, a tree, or even another vehicle.
Keep Your Eyes Moving
When we all first started learning to drive, the most important thing everyone told us was to “keep our eyes on the road”. While this may seem like common sense, staring at the road for an extended period of time may have serious consequences. To keep your eyes from getting tired or restless, doctors have recommended continuously scanning the entire area in front of you instead of just focusing on one spot. Not only does this keep your eyes alert, but it also keeps you aware of your surroundings.
Keep It Clean
Keep It Clean
Clean Your Headlights
When you see something almost everyday, it is hard to notice the small and subtle changes that occur to it over time. This is exactly the case with your car’s headlights. Over time, dirt and grime coat your headlights and make them more and more dim. Once you clean your headlights, the area they cover will be like night and day compared to when they were dirty. http://www.wikihow.com/Clean-a-Glass-Windshield
Clean Your Windshields
When our windshields get dirty, or have a smudge, it is habit to reach your hand up there and wipe off the dirt or smudge with your finger. This may fix the problem for daytime driving, but you have just created an entirely new problem for nighttime driving. It is good car habit to clean your windshield regularly, and to keep a cloth in your car for when you have the urge to wipe your windshield with your hand. When cleaning your windshield, it is said you get the best results when you do so with newspaper.
Clean All of Your Mirrors
Not only should you be regularly be cleaning your windshield, but you should also be regularly be cleaning all of your mirrors and windows. Dirty rearview and side mirrors will make the lights from other car behind you more glaring and distracting, and windows with smudges or dirt makes it hard to switch lanes without completely turning your head. So make sure to keep all of your mirrors and windows as clean as possible to ensure a safe driving experience.
Better Safe Than Sorry
A lot of smokers will say one of their favorite times to have a cigarette is when they are driving, but is that the safest thing to be doing when driving at night? It has been shown the nicotine in cigarettes causes your eyes to take an extra 15 to 30 minutes to adjust to dim lighting making it more difficult to see while drive at night.
Reduce Speed & Increase Follow Distances
It is always a good rule of thumb to obey the speed limits and give yourself enough room to slow down if the driver in front of you needs to make an abrupt stop. At night this is especially true, and if you want to err on the side of caution it might be smart to drive a little slower than the speed limit and give yourself more room to stop than you normally would.
If Needed, Use Your High Beams
People may not like to use their high beams in fear of blinding other drivers, but if you feel unsafe driving with just your low beams, I say go ahead and turn on the brights. If you do have your high beams on, just be on the look out for other cars and try your best to turn them off when one is about to pass by.
If You Are Tired, Stop and Rest
Driving that happens in the dark is usually at night or early in the morning. These are two times of day when people are most likely to be tired. If you are traveling long distances and begin to feel tired or if your eyelids start to get heavy, getting off the road and taking a quick nap is probably your best bet. It may take you a little longer to get to where you are going, but your safety won’t be in jeopardy.
If You Have Car Trouble, Pull Off the Road as Far as Possible
Car trouble can happen at any time and it seems to happen at the most inconvenient times. If car trouble strikes you when it is pitch dark outside, play it safe and pull as far off to the side of the road as possible. Cars zooming past you will have trouble seeing you since it is dark, so to be even safer, turn your hazard lights on too.
Watch Out for Drunk or Drowsy Drivers
Another caution to have when driving during the later hours of the day is to be on the lookout for drunk drivers. People who are drunk behind the wheel can cause serious, sometimes fatal, damage. When you are driving at night, be on the lookout for drivers who are swerving, driving erratically, and/or hitting their brakes frequently and suddenly. If you, or someone you know, were injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, contact the offices of Kelley & Canterbury L.L.C. We seek justice for injuries caused by drunk drivers.
Unfortunately, not everyone follows these tips and could still be putting you, or someone you know, in danger. If you are involved in an accident with another vehicle, stay calm. Report the accident and get your vehicles off the road if possible. Stay warm and dry in your car until the police or paramedics arrive. Document as much of the accident on your own as you can; the evidence may be useful at a later date.
If you have further questions about the steps to take after a winter accident injury, or wish to discuss your case, contact Kelley & Canterbury, LLC.