Driving at night can be difficult and dangerous. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when driving after the sun goes down.
- Aim Your Headlights. Headlights even in brand-new cars are sometimes uneven or pointed lower than necessary. So, it’s worth the effort to aim them correctly. If you do it yourself, use the instructions in your owner’s manual. It may take a few tries before you have them pointed perfectly. Just make sure those newly aimed lights are not blinding oncoming traffic.
- Dim Your Instrument Panel and Dash Lights. With bright dashboard LEDs and large infotainment screens finding their way into vehicles, there are a lot of sources of unnecessary and distracting lighting inside a vehicle that can diminish your vision. Dimming dash lights can remove reflections on the windshield and allow your eyes to better adjust to the darkness ahead, improving nighttime visibility.
- Don’t Wear the Wrong Glasses. Glasses—prescription or otherwise—add another reflective surface between the driver’s eyes and the road, so choosing the correct glasses to wear is crucial to improved nighttime visibility. The best option? Prescription lenses with anti-reflective coating. This coating stops additional, unnecessary light from reflecting inside your lenses while allowing more light to pass through.
- Become a Retina Spotter. Driving at night means encountering nocturnal animals of varying sizes, like raccoons and opossums. However, there are larger, more deadly and dangerous animals, like deer, elk, and moose, that can cause serious damage. Even high beams fail to illuminate much beyond your stopping distance, so avoiding a deer or other animals takes a particular skill—catching your headlights reflected in the eyes of an animal. These tiny bright spots often appear far down the road, giving you more time to slow down or come to a stop.
- Don’t Stare at Oncoming Lights. Bright lights can seriously disrupt your concentration at night. Inside the car, your eyes are used to the dim glow of the instrument panel and the dark road ahead. It’s very easy to become distracted and stare into a bright road sign or the headlights of an 18-wheeler headed your way without even realizing it. Turn your gaze away from other lights on the road, and don’t look at oncoming high beams. If a car behind you has its high beams on, often you can move your rearview mirror to reflect light backward to alert the driver, and to get the reflection away from your own eyes.
- Give Your Windshield a Wipe With Newspaper. Windshields that appear clean during the day may reveal streaks that can cause glare at night. A detailer’s trick is to polish glass with newspaper to remove residue. Try not to touch the inside surfaces of your windshield, side windows, or mirrors with your hands, even if it’s to wipe off mist. The oil from your skin will smear, and light will glare when it shines through any place where you touched the glass. Instead, keep a cotton or microfiber cloth in your door pocket.
- Bolt on Some Fog Lights. Fog lights, as the name implies, help the driver see the road instead of simply lighting up the fog in front of the car. They’re are aimed as low as possible because fog itself often hangs no lower than a couple of feet above the road.
- Add Auxiliary Lights. When it’s time to light up the night, there are plenty of auxiliary lamps available. These light kits vary in naming conventions—they’re sometimes called driving lights, spotlights, or pencil beams. It’s best to select a pair of lamps that are designed for road use. Be sure to check legality of the lights in your state.
- Clean and Adjust Your Exterior Mirrors. Dirty mirrors are just like a dirty windshield and can reflect and distort light that distracts the driver. Dirty mirrors reflect the lights from cars behind you in a wider, diffused shape that can produce glare in your eyes, so clean them up. Also, aim the exterior mirrors so that you can move your head out of the path of lights reflected in them. Aim them downward just slightly. That way, you can see cars behind you by tipping your head slightly forward, but you keep the other car’s headlights out of your eyes—and prevent them from temporarily blinding you with their high beams. Don’t forget to switch your inside rear-view mirror to the Night or Auto Dim setting, which darkens the mirror to prevent glare.
- Keep Your Eyes Healthy. To reduce the effects of eye fatigue at night while driving, eye doctors often recommend keeping your eyes moving, scanning all around your field of vision instead of focusing on one area. The American Optometric Association suggests checkups every three years if you’re under 40, every two years until you’re 60, and annually after that. You can have the cleanest windshield and the best headlights, but they do nothing if your eyes are strained and they can’t correctly perceive road objects or other dangerous hazards.
For the full detailed Popular Mechanics article by Phil Berg and Anthony Alaniz, click here.