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 drivers limit or regulate their own driving. Many senior drivers also find they just don’t need to be driving 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 driving at night:
- 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 during reduced visibility, 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 visibility at night. 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 begin driving 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.
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.