Driving at night has added challenges because the darkness reduces your vision and glares from oncoming cars or passing streetlights can temporarily blind you. If you’re older or have vision problems, you may be at increased risk due to loss of vision distance or ability to cope with sudden changes in lighting. To keep yourself from being blinded, follow these steps.
Start Inside Your Car
The first thing you should do is stop glares from happening in the inside of your car. Don’t use your overhead dome light or reading lights while your car is in motion as they reflect off of your windows and reduce your visibility — even if the light is over a passenger.
If passengers are using a phone or other device, make sure it stays both out of your line of sight and where it won’t reflect off of a window. If you use a phone or GPS device for navigation, make sure that it has a night mode. Also, use do not disturb on your phone to keep it from suddenly lighting up while you’re driving.
Clean Your Windshield and Mirrors Properly
Tree sap, paper towel residue, dust, and other debris may be hard to spot or completely invisible during the day. However, when light hits them at the right angle at night, it could cause a glare that blocks your entire range of vision.
Clean your glass surfaces at least once per week using cleaners designed for car glass. Other cleaners may leave residue or damage your car’s paint. Be sure to use a good microfiber cloth rather than a dishcloth or paper towels to avoid lint or other residues from sticking to your otherwise clean surface.
Check Your Headlights
Periodically walk around your car with your lights on to make sure they’re all working and at full power. If your headlight covers are dirty, take them off and clean them so the light can shine through.
Also, keep in mind that your headlights need to be aimed properly — they don’t just screw in. If you’ve replaced them or done work that might have bumped them, they could be aimed in a way that’s not giving you a proper range of light or that’s blinding other drivers.
Aiming your headlights involves parking a few car lengths away from a wall and making sure your lights intersect in the right spot. Exactly what you need to do varies by make and model, so look up instructions for your specific car.
Make Good Use of Your Headlights
Being a good driver includes making smart use of your headlights. There are three parts to this.
- Keep scanning off to the side of the road, behind you, and ahead of you into dark areas. This keeps your eyes adjusted to looking into the dark.
- Turn your headlights on as soon as the sun starts to go down. Use your high beams whenever they won’t shine into other drivers’ faces. This keeps your eyes from getting tired from squinting into the dark too much.
- Don’t drive faster than your headlights. Being able to see an object that has fallen on the road does you no good if you can’t stop in time even if you slam on your brakes as soon as you see it.
If you follow these steps and practice good defensive driving habits, you’ll greatly improve your ability to see at night and reduce your risk of an accident.