Driving at night presents challenges for all drivers. Senior drivers can face substantially increased risk, because of decreased visual distance and sensitivity to the contrast between darkness and bright lights along roadways.
Difficulties like these are the most common reasons older adults limit or regulate their own driving. Many seniors also find they just don’t need to drive at night as often as they used to and primarily drive during the day. This can result in driving under less stressful conditions, too.
If you cannot avoid driving at night, there are several ways to manage the risks.
To minimize challenges of night driving:
Adjust your speed to the reach of your headlights. Do not “overdrive” your headlights by driving at a speed that wouldn’t allow you to stop for an obstacle at the far reaches of your headlights. Compensate for reduced visibility by decreasing your speed and increasing following distance to four or more seconds behind the car in front of you.
Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves or at intersections, because these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
Look at the sides of objects. In dim light, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
Protect your eyes from glare. Prolonged exposure to glare from sunlight or headlights can temporarily affect your night vision. It can also lead to eyestrain and drowsiness. Wear good sunglasses on bright days and take them off as soon as the sun goes down. After steady daytime driving, rest awhile before you drive at night. At night, look to the center of your pathway and use the painted edge lines to guide your vehicle.
Avoid being blinded by oncoming high beams. If the driver of an oncoming vehicle fails to dim the lights, look down toward the right side of the road to avoid being blinded. You should be able to see the edge of the lane or the painted edge line and stay on course until the vehicle passes.
Click on each of the tips to find out how to combat glare at night.
Drivers middle-aged and older are more sensitive to glare than younger drivers because their eyes take longer to adjust to changing light levels.
Click on each of the tips above to find out how to combat glare at night.
Adjust Both Outside Mirrors
Properly aligned mirrors not only reduce blind spots, they also reduce glare from vehicles behind you.
While sitting in the driver's seat, lean to the left and tilt your head until it rests against the window. From that position, adjust the driver's side mirror so you can just see the left rear corner of the vehicle.
Avert Your Eyes
When oncoming vehicles shine light directly into your eyes, turn your gaze to the white line on the right side of the road, or to where the pavement meets the shoulder, until the vehicle goes by.
Use the Rearview Mirror's "Night" Setting
All cars have day/night interior mirrors to reduce glare from cars directly behind you. You can usually change the mirror to its "night" setting by flipping the small lever at the bottom of the mirror.
Proactively Use Your Headlights
Headlights should be on at least one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset. Lights should be turned on a cloudy or rainy day. Make sure that all lights are functioning properly.
BONUS TIP: Make it Easier for Others to See You.
Make it Easier for Others to See You.
When you drive with your lights on during the day, other drivers can see you at a distance of about 4,700 feet, compared to about 2,500 feet with no lights on.