Driving at night can be challenging, especially when the days get shorter, and the nights get longer. Every year during the darker autumn and winter months, insurance companies will see an increase in motor claims related to driving in these more challenging conditions. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 40% of collisions occur in the dark, even though only 15% of vehicle miles are travelled at night.

Night-time driving demands more from you as a driver compared to driving in the daylight, as your vision is reduced, which makes it more difficult to spot other road users such as cyclists, motorcyclists and even pedestrians. You may also be more tired than usual. Therefore, it is important to take extra precautions when driving at night, especially during the autumn and winter months.

In this article, we will share some tips on how to drive safely at night, such as adjusting your headlights, reducing your speed, avoiding distractions, and staying alert. By taking some simple measures you can reduce your risk of an accident and help keep yourself, and others, safe on the road.

Use your lights correctly

Newer vehicles have daytime running lights which are on all the time. However, as dusk approaches, it’s best to switch on your dipped headlights to improve visibility and to make sure you can be seen by other road users. Some vehicles have automatic lights that turn on and off depending on the light conditions. However, these sensors rely on ambient light level rather than on vision and visibility as you see them, so they won’t always get it right.

Your full beam should only be used when there isn’t another source of light. If you find yourself on an unlit stretch of road, slow down and turn your full beam on. You must switch to dipped headlights when you meet oncoming traffic, to avoid dazzling the drivers.

If there is heavy rain, fog or snow, your full beam headlights may not be the correct solution, as the light from them can be reflected back at you, making it difficult to see what’s ahead. If at any point you feel unsafe, pull over and wait for the worst of the weather to pass before getting back on the road.

You should make regular visual checks on all your vehicle’s lights. By law, all your vehicle’s exterior lights must be operational, including the headlights, brake lights, indicators, and the bulb above the number plate. If you notice that a bulb has gone, replace it as soon as possible.

Avoid distractions

Modern vehicles have a number of gadgets installed as standard these days. While they provide great features and benefits, they can also be a distraction. Things like front screen displays will often have the option to dim the brightness. At night this can be a useful feature, as it can reduce additional glare, enabling you to focus on the road ahead.

To avoid further distractions, keep your mobile phone out of sight and turn off all interior lights to reduce internal reflections and glare.

Don’t stare at the oncoming traffic. Focus on the left-hand side of the road and follow the markings. By doing so, you’ll remain in the correct position on the road but won’t be dazzled by the glare of oncoming vehicles.

Don’t drive when tired

We’ve all seen the signs on the motorway, “Tiredness can kill, take a break”. No matter what the time of the day, driving when tired is dangerous. Drowsiness lowers your concentration and slows your reflexes. Combined with the lower visibility of night-time, the risks are even greater. Recognise the early signs of tiredness such as heavy eyelids, having trouble concentrating and staying in your lane, and struggling to remember where you have driven to get to where you currently are.

If you find yourself needing to open a window or turning the music up to try and stay focused, it’s probably best to take a break. A quick power nap can help. However, it’s best to avoid getting to that stage. If you’re travelling a long distance, plan ahead. Take a break every couple of hours or so, when it is safe to do so. If you’re driving overnight, consider booking a hotel and splitting the long drive over two days. If you’re travelling with someone else, share the driving.

Keep windows clean and clear

This may sound obvious, but make sure you keep your windscreen clean and clear. When you’re driving at night, it’s important to be able to clearly spot any potential hazards. With visibility already reduced in the dark, keeping your windscreen clean can help. Make sure your screen wash is topped up regularly.

Condensation is more of a problem at night. During daylight, it can restrict your vision but at night the condensation can intensify glare, reducing both your visibility and reaction time. Don’t set off until your windscreen and windows are clear.

Get your eyes regularly tested

Driving in the dark becomes increasingly difficult the older we get, as our eyes become less sensitive to light as we age. By law, and with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary, you must be able to read a car number plate made after 1st September 2001 from a distance of 20 metres. You should get your eyesight checked regularly. This should be done every two years or more frequently if recommended by your Optician.

Tony Buckingham, Managing Director of Buckingham Insurance says, “This weekend sees the start of the festive period and the roads are going to be busier than ever. Busy roads combined with poor weather conditions can make driving more difficult, especially with the dark nights. It is important that people take care and allow extra time to make their journeys.

To discuss your insurance requirements, please contact us or call in to our offices, either in Clowne or Ripley. Alternatively, telephone one of our friendly staff on 01246 575 625 (Clowne) or 01773 748 627 (Ripley). They will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

Who is Buckingham Insurance?

Buckingham Insurance is an independent general insurance broker. From our offices in both Clowne and Ripley, we have been serving households and businesses across Derbyshire and South Yorkshire for over 40 years. Our brokers provide our customers with professional, impartial help and advice about their personal and business insurance, and our extensive relationships in the insurance markets mean that we can provide tailored cover from the UK’s leading insurance companies and specialist providers.

We aim to offer a truly modern broker experience. We pride ourselves on putting our clients first, and the quality of the service we offer is demonstrated by our growing client base and the high number of clients that choose to stay with us, year after year.