Successful strategies for safe driving at night

Night, busy city traffic, time-lapsed to create headlight blur.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 26 April 2021

Driving at night means reduced visibility. Learn how staying alert, watching your speed and keeping your windscreen clean can help you stay safe and judge distances correctly.

Night riders

Well, it’s that time again; we’ve slipped back into the darkness that is Greenwich Mean Time. We have the consolation of woolly jumpers, cosy fires and lots of rich food, of course, but we’ve also got to get used to longer nights and shorter, colder days again.

Night of the living revs

If you’re still with us, you’ll probably have guessed that I’m not just spreading this misery for fun. From a road safety point of view, the shorter days and longer nights mean you just cannot see as far ahead when you’re out and about in the gloom. And you’ll be driving in darkness if you work regular office hours or you’re practising your driving after college.

Fortunately, we’ve got a few tips that will help keep you safe at night.

  1. Watch your speed – Driving fast affects your ability to drive safely, as you have less time to react to hazards. It’s particularly dangerous in conditions where it’s difficult to see and judge distances, as hazards can appear to be further away than they actually are. Never drive so fast that you cannot stop within the distance you can see to be clear.
  2. Keep those windows clean – A dirty windscreen increases glare and dazzle, so make sure you check it before you set off. Give your windscreen a good clean if there’s any muck on it.
  3. Check your windscreen wipers are in good condition – Unless we beat some very long-standing meteorological records, you can bet it’s going to rain this autumn. But have no fear: the Safe Driving for Life blog will tell you everything you need to know about driving in wet weather.
  4. Get those lights on – Headlights are an essential part of your ability to see and be seen. Do not be afraid to put them on at dusk, especially if your vehicle is not a very bright colour and may be less easy to distinguish in the half-light.
  5. Watch out for pedestrians – Some street lights cause patches of shadow where pedestrians can be hidden. This is particularly true of pedestrians who are not wearing reflective clothing (and that’ll be most of them).
  6. Look out for cyclists – Cyclists do not always wear reflective clothing, and some may even be cycling without lights. They can also behave unpredictably – perhaps by swerving to avoid a bad patch of road or because they’ve been affected by the weather. So keep a sharp eye out. For more information on drivers and cyclists, have a look at this post or visit Stay Bright for a great explanation of how drivers see cyclists on their way to school.
  7. Only overtake at night if you can see that the road will remain clear until after you’ve finished overtaking – This rule applies any time you overtake, but it’s especially important when it’s dark. Do not overtake if you’re approaching
  • a road junction
  • a bend
  • a dip in the road
  • the brow of a bridge or a hill (unless you’re on a dual carriageway)
  • a pedestrian crossing
  • solid double white lines along the centre of the road.

Dip your headlights in good time If you’re driving along on main beam, do not forget to dip your lights when you meet another vehicle, to avoid dazzling the approaching driver.

Find out more …

We hope that you found this post useful. Of course, this is more a short tale than an entire novel. If you want to read the whole story (and find out more to help you improve your driving skills and knowledge), head over to the SDFL shop and pick up copies of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills and The Official DVSA Guide to Better Driving.

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