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Driving Newsletter - Tips and Advice on Passing your Driving Test

Driving at Night

Night owl: driving in the dark

  • Safe night-time driving

Like motorway driving, driving at night is an interesting experience for those drivers who’ve never had the misfortune to encounter it before – in other words, drivers who had lessons and passed in spring and summer.

If you had lessons in winter, you’ll know about limited visibility, glare from headlights and, of course, the importance of having your own headlights on.

The main problem with driving at night is that the reduced light conditions make it difficult to judge distance and colours, and peripheral vision is also affected – even if you’d normally have perfect vision in the daytime.

You’re also likely to be much more tired at night, whether it’s 4pm in winter or 11pm in summer; your internal body clock is still registering the onset of night time, and is getting ready to go to sleep.

Beat the glare

There are a number of ways to adjust your driving style to suit night-time driving. Pass Plus and advanced driving courses can help you gain experience with night-time driving, showing you how to understand road markings, judge distances, adjust your driving style to suit the weather and how to use your headlights to best advantage.

These are all things you can pick up yourself, naturally – but as with motorway driving, if you’re a little uncertain, having dual controls and an experienced professional with you can make a huge difference. If you think it’s worth learning how to drive at night, then it’s worth booking yourself onto an advanced driving or Pass Plus course.

Tips to keep you safe at night

If you haven’t got the time, money or inclination to do a motoring course, however, there are several handy tips and tricks to make driving at night a lot easier.

  • Keep your windscreen clean. Any dust, dirt or dead flies will limit your vision, make the darkness seem even darker and, rather annoyingly, make oncoming headlights seem even brighter.
  • Quit smoking. For the same reasons as keeping your windscreen clean; the smoke from cigarettes creates a film on your windscreen that can have a surprisingly negative affect on your visibility.
  • Make sure your headlights work correctly. That means they should be clean, aligned correctly (pointing down slightly, away from other road users and towards the road) and both working on all settings (side, dipped and main).
  • Use your lights correctly too. At dusk, you probably only need side lights; as the darkness deepens, you’ll need dipped headlights in well-lit areas and main beam for deserted country roads. However, only use main beam if there are no cars on the road in front of you. Otherwise you risk blinding them and making an accident much more likely.
  • Reduce your speed. Visibility is much worse at night, making hazards more difficult to spot. By slowing down just a little when you drive at night, you’re giving yourself a few extra seconds to react. The general rule for driving on unlit roads is to only ever drive at a speed where you can stop within the distance your headlights illuminate.
  • Look away. To avoid being dazzled by oncoming headlights, look slightly to the left of the road. If you’re being dazzled by the car behind, adjust your rear view mirror so their headlights aren’t shining in your eyes.
  • Wear night glasses. These aren’t a proven way to avoid dazzle, but the slight tint to the lenses of decent night driving glasses can turn bright car headlights into something more manageable.
  • Use cats’ eyes to help you navigate. Cats’ eyes aren’t just stuck to the roads to make them look pretty – they also help you to know what’s coming up and where on a road you are. This isn’t so obvious on a normal A road, where the white-ish eyes in the centre of the road indicate where your lane ends and where the other lane begins. However, take a look at the cats’ eyes on a motorway and it’s a different story. White eyes mark the lanes of your carriageway. Red eyes at the inner and outer edges tell you that’s the edge of the road, and don’t cross. Green eyes on your left tell you that’s a slip road for cars leaving or joining the motorway, and orange lights on your right tell you that’s the edge of the outside lane, and if you stray over them you’re likely to hit the central reservation.
  • Get lots of rest. If you’re feeling sleepy or even just a bit weary, and it’s a long journey, stop for a bit (where it’s safe and convenient to do so, naturally). Driving at night involves more concentration than normal, so drivers get tired quicker. Take a quick break, have a Kit Kat and a coffee, then hit the road again feeling refreshed and invigorated, ready for anything the road throws at you.

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