Top Safety Tips For Driving In The Dark

The clocks turned back on 25th October and with that comes wetter and darker evenings which make driving at night particularly dangerous. Even if you think you know a road very well, everything looks different when driving at night. It’s best to prepare for anything as driving in the dark poses a whole new set of challenges.

Whether you are new to driving in the dark or haven’t done it for some time, it can be daunting. Throw in some wet and windy conditions and you are faced with a different beast altogether. Fortunately, Elite Garages have put together a handy guide with tips on staying safe when driving at night. These checks and tips will help make night driving as safe as possible for you, your passengers and other road users.

The Importance Of Car Lights And Headlights When Driving At Night

There are several lights on our cars that perform a variety of vital functions. This includes indicators that double as hazard lights, tail lights, fog lights, brake lights and headlights. Remember, car lights are made to help you see better at night and to help other road users see you.

You don’t have to wait until it gets dark to switch on your car lights or until the street lights come on. If the light is fading you should use your lights, especially when dusk approaches. It’s imperative that all car lights are in perfect working condition and that you know how (and when) to use which lights.

Full Beam Headlights

Full beam headlights, or high beams, are the brightest type of car lights on normal vehicles. They are angled higher than dipped headlights to allow enhanced visibility but you should never leave them on permanently.

Only use your full beam headlights at night when driving on unlit stretches of road and turn them off when approaching oncoming traffic, following another vehicle or driving on left-turning bends. If you keep them on, they could dazzle drivers ahead of you and oncoming traffic which causes accidents.

To check if your high beams are on, look at your instrument cluster for a blue headlight symbol. This typically means the lights are on the brightest setting and you can usually switch it off by pushing the indicator stick towards you.

Dipped Headlights

Dipped headlights are the most commonly used as they are brighter than sidelights but not as strong as your high beams. As the name suggests, they are angled downwards, towards the road so they don’t impact other drivers. In most cars, you turn on a switch on the dashboard or by turning the indicator stalk. However, many newer cars have running lights that will work without having to do anything.

According to the Highway Code, “You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced”. Here, they define ‘seriously reduced’ as an inability to see less than 100m in front of you. This means you should use your dipped headlights when driving at night and during bad weather.

Fog Lights

Fog reflects high beams which is why fog lights are specially designed to improve visibility in misty conditions. They are usually fitted at the front and back with coloured coded switches; amber indicates rear fog lights and green for the front. Only use your fog lights when visibility is below 100 metres, which is about the length of a football pitch. Don’t use your fog lights when visibility is better than that as you could risk dazzling other drivers.

Brake Lights

Brake lights are always important but even more so when driving at night. This is due to drivers behind not seeing when you are stopping. Test your brake lights before heading out by asking someone to stand behind the car to see if they light up when you press the pedal. Another method is by reverse-parking your car close to a wall or reflective surface so you can use the mirrors to check for a red glow.

Make sure your brake lights are clean and working at all times as broken brake lights could result in the police pulling you over. There is a real possibility of facing any of the following consequences:

  • Verbal warning
  • Fixed penalty notice which includes a £60 fine and three points on your licence
  • A Vehicle Defect Rectification Notice (14-day order to fix the fault and provide proof)

Safety Checks When Driving At Night

Before setting off, plan your journey and familiarise yourself with the route and use major roads as they are often easier to navigate and better lit. Never rush to get to your destination as speed is a killer so it’s best to leave a little earlier and take your time.

As previously mentioned, check that your car lights are clean and in full working order. This includes the front and rear lights, high beams, brake lights and fog lights. At the same time, clean your windows properly to avoid glare and condensation.

Remember to turn off your interior lights and dim the dashboard if possible as it will reduce interior reflections. Keep extra light bulbs in case one of your lights break as the police can’t issue a fine if you can replace the defective bulb. You’ll not only avoid a fine but also points on your licence and an automatic breathalyser test.

Driving at Night Safety Tips

Now that you understand the importance of car lights and why everything should be clean and in working order, here’s a list of important things to keep in mind when driving at night.

  • Look out for pedestrians, especially near pubs and clubs
  • Be vigilant when it comes to cyclists as they don’t all wear reflective clothing or helmets
  • Keep a bigger distance between you and the car in front than you normally would during the day
  • Keep a steady speed and avoid slowing down when there is oncoming traffic as this might confuse drivers behind you
  • Get regular eye tests
  • Avoid listening to music or chatting to passengers, especially if you’re new to driving
  • Only use your mobile device as a GPS and never talk on it while driving, not even hands-free
  • If travelling long distances, take a break every two hours

Final Thoughts

When driving on country roads, switch to full beam but dip your headlights when other vehicles are approaching to avoid dazzling other drivers. Keep your eyes on the road at all times and be on the lookout for signs of oncoming traffic. They’re usually easy to spot as glimmers of light will appear at bends and the top of hills. If an oncoming driver dazzles you, keep calm and don’t look straight into their headlights.

Free Vehicle Safety Checks At Elite Garages

Elite Garages offers FREE Winter Safety Checks where our expert technicians will thoroughly inspect your vehicle to make sure everything is in good condition. Get ready for winter by visiting our website and book your free safety check today!

Have a look at our website for more information on Elite’s wide range of services and our response to Covid-19. Our advisors are on hand to help with all of your motoring needs. In case you were wondering, we are staying open during the lockdown to continue providing essential services.