Driving at night
As a new driver, you may have not driven much after dark. Most driving lessons tend to take place during the day, so night-time driving may seem unfamiliar – and possibly a little daunting.
Here we’re going to look at some of the differences you’ll experience when driving at night.
Can I learn to drive at night?
The short answer is yes. As long as you meet the criteria for driving legally, learner drivers can drive at night. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a few lessons after dark, because then you’ll get more experience in driving under different conditions.
There are a few things worth bearing in mind, however. Driving at night can be a very different kettle of fish from daytime driving. It requires concentration, and can be risky. But learning to drive is all about overcoming obstacles, and you’ll no doubt be an awesome night-time driver in no time.
Why is driving in the dark dangerous?
It’s important to be safety-conscious in the car at night, as driving in the dark can lead to accidents. According to RoSPA, 40% of road collisions occur during darkness.
There are a few reasons for this. One is reduced visibility of other road users. This is particularly the case when it comes to pedestrians and cyclists, who may be harder to spot after dark.
It’s not just other road users that are harder to see. Road markings can be more difficult to read as well, especially on unlit and poorly maintained roads. This can be made worse in certain conditions, such as when it’s raining.
Even when you can see other road users’ lights, it can be harder to judge distances and speeds at night.
Also, drivers and other road users may be more fatigued. Being tired can lead to mistakes being made, and slower response times.
While this may seem like a lot to deal with, it’s something you’ll get better at with practice. And we’ve got a few handy hints to give your night-time driving a good head start…
Know your lights
The Highway Code requires headlights to be used on a car “when visibility is seriously reduced”, meaning when you can’t clearly see 100m ahead of you. Obviously this applies at night, so that you can see better and – just as importantly – so other road users can see you.
It’s good practice to turn your headlights on for an hour before sunset, and keep them on for an hour after sunrise. This will help other road users see you in the dim light.
Even if you think you’re clearly visible to other road users, there may be reasons why they may struggle to see you – such as having condensation on their windows. This is why you want to give them every chance to see you’re there.
You can read our guide to dipped headlights here. But one of the main things you need to know is that you can use full beams when it’s really dark, but switch to dipped headlights if there are any road users visible ahead of you. This is to stop them from getting dazzled, which can be dangerous. This also includes cyclists and pedestrians.
If you’re dazzled yourself, avoid looking at the offending headlights. Instead, concentrate on the left-hand kerb (and white line if there is one) until the vehicle has passed.
Avoid distracting glare
There are a few things you can do to make sure your visibility outside the car is improved. One of the most important ones is to keep your windscreens and windows clean. This applies both inside and out. Dirt and moisture can catch the light and cause glare, which means you’re less able to see what’s happening on the road.
To further avoid distracting light in the vehicle, keep your dashboard lights on the dimmest setting if you can. And don’t drive at night with the interior lights on.
Don’t drive while tired
It’s not just reduced visibility that affects our ability to drive at night. It’s also because we’re naturally more tired. And even if you’re fully alert, other road users may not be, so it’s good to stay on your toes.
If you know you’ve got a night-time journey ahead, get plenty of rest and relaxation ahead of time. Pick-me-ups like coffee may be helpful in the short term… But ultimately the best way to get through journeys – especially longer ones – is to be well rested and on the ball.
This is sometimes easier said than done. But if you’ve had a busy or stressful day, try to make time to put your feet up and unwind before jumping in the car. Maybe even try to get a short nap in, if you can. This should hopefully give you some extra zing for the journey.
Don’t rush, and take regular breaks
Not being in a rush is a good tip for driving at any time, but especially so at night. If we feel we’re against the clock, we’re putting ourselves under pressure, which increases the chances of making mistakes. Make sure you leave in plenty of time to get to your destination.
If it’s a long journey, plan to take a break at least every couple of hours. Rule 91 of The Highway Code advises that – for every two hours of driving – you should take at least a 15-minute break.
Get your eyes tested
Finally, it’s a good idea to have regular check-ups with your optician. Even if you can see well during the daytime, they may identify issues with your night vision that you might not be aware of.
In any case, it’s a good idea to have your eyesight checked regularly. Being able to see well – whether that’s with glasses, contacts or otherwise – is vitally important for driving at all times. Be sure to look after those peepers!
If you want to get some practice in driving your car in the dark before you get your own car, then grab some of Veygo’s temporary car insurance. If you’re a learner driver there’s also some Veygo learner insurance for you too, so you can get on the roads!