Driving at Night: A Primer

With the days getting darker earlier and the nights getting longer, the winter can feel like a major slog. Commuting to work before the sun wakes up and commuting home after its gone to bed can feel like you’ll never see daylight again. Additionally, driving when it’s dark outside is the most notoriously dangerous time to drive. 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.

Cars waiting at light at night in Chicago

How to Drive Safely At Night

Did you know that the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night, according to National Safety Council research? Daylight Saving Time has officially thrown us into the darkest days of the year, and a lot of us are probably spending more hours on the road in the dark. Here at Metromile, we’re committed to the safety of all of our customers, which is why we’re sharing our best tips for driving at night.

But First: Some Scary Stats

We know that night driving increases crash risk for all drivers, but did you know that the risk is even higher for young inexperienced drivers? Here’s a scary stat: only 14 percent of the miles driven by 16- to 17-year-old drivers occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., yet this time period accounts for 32 percent of fatal crashes in this age group. Let that sink in for a minute.

Another disturbing stat: nationwide, 49% of fatal crashes happen at night. Not only that, but nighttime crashes have a fatality rate (per mile of travel) about three times as high as daytime hours. Of people killed at night, roughly two-thirds aren’t wearing seatbelts. Just to put that in perspective, during the day, the percentage of unrestrained fatalities tends to be under half.

Reduced Visibility

When was the last time you felt you could see really well in the dark? Unlike most animals, humans naturally do not have great night vision, so driving at night is inherently much riskier. Let’s explore some of the major risk factors for night driving and some tips on how to overcome the risk of driving at night.

Major Risk Factors

Some of the major risk factors for driving at night include:

  • Reduced depth perception
  • Reduced color recognition
  • Compromised peripheral vision
  • Temporary blindness caused by the glare of headlights from an oncoming vehicle
Tips to Overcome Risk

Here are a few things you can do to combat these risk factors:

  • Aim your headlights correctly, and make sure they’re clean and free from haze
  • Dim your dashboard brightness to reduce the contrast between dark and light, which can be difficult for your eye to process
  • Avert your gaze from oncoming headlights
  • If you wear glasses, make sure they’re anti-reflective to reduce glare on the road
  • Clean both the inside and outside of the windshield to eliminate streaks and haziness
  • Drive slower to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time

Fatigue and Rush Hour

The hours between 4pm and 7pm are the most dangerous times to be on the road. Couple that with the fact that the national average time of sunset is around 4:30pm during the winter months and you have a recipe for disaster. Driving in the dark also triggers fatigue in many people. With tired drivers rushing to get home after dark, driving during winter rush hour is a majorly scary undertaking.

Major Risk Factors

Some of the major risk factors for driving during winter rush hour include:

  • Drivers eager to get home who may be less cautious and more aggressive
  • Crowded roadways
  • Driving in the dark, which may cause drowsiness and fatigue in both you and other drivers on the road
Tips to Overcome Risk

Here are a few things you can do to combat these risk factors:

  • Carefully monitor your own fatigue levels, and know when you need to pull over to a safe rest area
  • Leaving early (preferably before dusk) will help you stay awake, see better, and avoid crowded roadways
  • Practice defensive driving and be vigilant for other drivers’ mistakes
  • Be courteous to other drivers on the road and only use your high beams when there’s no one driving towards you or in front of you

Distracted Drivers

After a tiring day at the office, the last thing you should be doing on the drive home is texting, ‘gramming, or dining in your car. Distracted driving is a leading cause of car crashes, and distracted driving at night can be even more deadly.

Major Risk Factors

Some of the major risk factors for driving while distracted in the dark include:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Disability glare from your phone screen (i.e. the glare from your lit phone screen causes light scatter in the eyes, which in turn reduces the contrast of roadway objects)
  • Not practicing defensive driving to watch for other drivers’ mistakes
  • Not paying attention to pedestrians or other obstacles in the roadway
Tips to Overcome Risk

Here are a few things you can do to combat these risk factors:

  • Never, ever text and drive (or use social media, or check email… you catch our drift)
  • Same goes for eating while driving and talking on the phone
  • Switch your phone to auto-reply or do not disturb while you’re driving so you’re not tempted to check your notifications
  • Watch for other distracted drivers and steer clear – notify the authorities if they appear to be a danger to others on the road

Driving Under the Influence

‘Tis the season for endless holiday parties which also include open bars and free-flowing alcoholic beverages. If you’re relying on a car to transport you home after the party, always plan out a designated driver ahead of time. If you’re the one driving home, abstain from drinking at the party to ensure you and your passengers all make it home safely. There are more drunk drivers on the road at night, which increases the risk of accidents. In fact, the NSC indicates weekend nights are the worst time of the week for fatal accidents.

Major Risk Factors

Some of the major risk factors for driving while under the influence include:

  • Slower reaction times
  • Less inhibition while driving which can lead to riskier behavior
  • Impaired judgment, concentration, comprehension, coordination, and visual acuity
  • Injuring or killing yourself or others
Tips to Overcome Risk

Here are a few things you can do to combat these risk factors:

  • Never get behind the wheel while intoxicated (yes, this includes being buzzed)
  • Always designate a DD before imbibing or take another form of transportation home
  • Abstain from drinking or becoming intoxicated if you are planning on driving
  • Be vigilant for other drivers who are driving under the influence, and if you spot one, be sure to move out of the way of harm and dial 911

TL;DR

Whew, that was a lot of info. If you didn’t have time to read the full article, here’s the reader’s digest and our best tips for driving at night.

Top 17 Tips for Driving at Night

  1. Aim your headlights correctly, and make sure they’re clean and free from haze
  2. Dim your dashboard brightness to reduce the contrast between dark and light, which can be difficult for your eye to process
  3. Avert your gaze from oncoming headlights
  4. If you wear glasses, make sure they’re anti-reflective to reduce glare on the road
  5. Clean both the inside and outside of the windshield to eliminate streaks and haziness
  6. Drive slower to compensate for limited visibility and reduced stopping time
  7. Carefully monitor your own fatigue levels, and know when you need to pull over to a safe rest area
  8. Leave early (preferably before dusk) to help you stay awake, see better, and avoid crowded roadways
  9. Practice defensive driving and be vigilant for other drivers’ mistakes
  10. Be courteous to other drivers on the road and only use your high beams when there’s no one driving towards you or in front of you
  11. Never, ever text and drive (or use social media, or check email… you catch our drift) – the same goes for eating while driving and talking on the phone
  12. Switch your phone to auto-reply or do not disturb while you’re driving so you’re not tempted to check your notifications
  13. Watch for other distracted drivers and steer clear – notify the authorities if they appear to be a danger to others on the road
  14. Never get behind the wheel while intoxicated (yes, this includes being buzzed)
  15. Always designate a DD before imbibing or take another form of transportation home
  16. Abstain from drinking or becoming intoxicated if you are planning on driving
  17. Be vigilant for other drivers who are driving under the influence, and if you spot one, be sure to move out of the way of harm and dial 911

Always remember that driving is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. At this time of year, we’re spending more time than usual driving in the dark, and we hope that this primer refreshes our beloved Metromile fam with some best practices for driving at night.

Still Have Questions?

No worries, we have the answers. Check out our FAQ page in the Metromile Help Center to see if there’s already an answer to your inquiry. And if your question isn’t answered there, you can get direct, customized guidance from one of Metromile’s licensed agents by calling 1.888.242.5204 to talk it out.

If you haven’t joined the Metromile fam yet, what are you waiting for? Start the New Year right by saving some cash! Grab a free quote today. As always, be safe out there and see you on the roads.