The Most Dangerous Time to Drive
As we 'Fall Back' to Shorter Days, Take Extra Care on the Road
Shorter days, fatigue, compromised night vision, rush hour and impaired drivers all contribute to making driving at night more dangerous than any other time of day. In fact, the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night, according to National Safety Council research.
When Daylight Saving Time ends – for 2018, that's 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 – many people will find themselves spending more time driving in the dark. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision can be compromised in the dark, and the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle can temporarily blind a driver.
Even with high-beam headlights on, visibility is limited to about 500 feet (250 feet for normal headlights) creating less time to react to something in the road, especially when driving at higher speeds.
What should you do to combat darkness
Aim your headlights correctly, and make sure they're clean
Dim your dashboard
Look away from oncoming lights
If you wear glasses, make sure they're anti-reflective
Clean the windshield to eliminate streaks
Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time
Compromised Night Vision
Night vision is the ability to see well in low-light conditions. As we age, we have greater difficulty seeing at night. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. At age 60 and older, driving can become even more difficult, according to the American Optometric Association. Some older drivers also may have compromised vision due to cataracts and degenerative eye diseases.
The AOA recommends older drivers:
Have annual vision exams
Take a driving course; even experienced drivers can benefit from a refresher course, and some of the rules have probably changed
Minimize distractions, like talking with passengers or listening to the radio
Check with your doctor about side effects of prescription drugs
Limit driving to daytime hours if necessary
Evening rush hour (between 4 and 7 p.m. weekdays) is a dangerous time to drive due to crowded roadways and drivers eager to get home after work. In winter, it's dark during rush hour, compounding an already dangerous driving situation.
How can you make it home safely during rush hour?
Don't be an impatient driver; slow down
Stay in your lane and beware of drivers who dart from lane to lane
Even though the route may be familiar, don't go on autopilot; stay alert
In unfamiliar areas, consult a map before you go and memorize your route
Don't touch your phone, eat, drink or do other things that are distracting
Also be aware in the Northern States that this is the time the Whitetail Deer breed and they are moving across roads at all times of the day and night.
Stay Alert, Stay Alive
While we do only one quarter of our driving at night, 50% of traffic deaths happen at night. It doesn't matter whether the road is familiar or not, driving at night is always more dangerous. More than 40,000 people were killed in car crashes in 2016, according to Injury Facts. By taking some extra precautions, we can all contribute to reducing these numbers.
Enjoy the Thanksgiving Holiday and STAY SAFE!