The main issue new driver’s face with night time driving is the inability to judge distances and speed due to reduced visibility. If you can’t stop within the lit distance ahead of you; slow down.
Before you even think about driving at night-time, make sure your lights work. Check both your headlights and your break lights are working correctly, and that they’re not dirty.
Having dirt around your lights will make them dim; reducing your chances of seeing hazards ahead, and of being seen by other road users. Make sure you keep your windscreen clean too. A dirty windscreen will make it harder for you to see the road, and in some cases the window can even ‘white-out’ with the glare of oncoming traffic.
Essential tip: Keep some newspaper, kitchen roll, or a microfibre cloth in your car to wipe down smudges on your interior windows. And keep a bottle of pre-diluted screen wash in your boot too in case you run out mid-journey.
Your dipped headlights need to be turned on in the evenings (and don’t just wait until you see other cars with them on to copy). When you think your visibility is reduced, turn them on, and in turn, turn off any interior lights which might be switched on. Interior lights make it really difficult for your eyes to adjust to the darkness outside.
Use your main beam to light up empty roads, but make sure you turn them off when there are other road users as to not dazzle them. If you’re the one that’s being dazzled, you can divert your gaze; use the road markers as guidance until the vehicle has passed.
Stay calm, relax, and read the road for all potential hazards. Cyclists, motorbikes and hazards are harder to spot at night, you need to be concentrating to be able to spot a range of hazards, from the reflection of a small animal’s eyes, to a single headlight from a motorbike. In the current hazard perception test there are no night time clips, however the DVSA are developing new CGI clips which will depict night time (as well as bad weather) for future tests.
If you’re having driving lessons your instructor will be able to go over the essentials for night driving with you. If you have passed and would feel more comfortable with further tuition, the pass plus course has a night driving module.
Note: ‘Main beam’ are also commonly known as ‘full beam’ lights.
Do you have any words of wisdom to share about driving at night? Share in the comments below: