It is always preferable to drive during the day, when we have greater visibility and when there is a statistically lower chance for drivers under the influence to be on the road. Drivers are also less likely to be tired during the daylight hours, and it is especially advisable to avoid driving when your circadian rhythm makes you drowsy between the hours of 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. However, sometimes circumstances call for driving at night. Follow these tips to ensure you’re taking every precaution to have a safe and enjoyable nighttime drive.
1. Make sure you’re well rested
It is well-known that sleep deprivation is strongly associated with car accidents. Some models estimate that up to 33% of fatal car crashes involve drowsy drivers. Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to focus, your reaction time, and your emotional response, making things like road rage more likely. The CDC recommends adults get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night, and some adults will require more to feel well-rested.
2. Take breaks and don’t drive for too long
It is recommended to not drive for more than 10 hours a day for professional drivers with passenger-carrying vehicles. Non-professional drivers should likely drive fewer. No matter how many hours you plan to drive, you should make sure to take appropriate breaks. Multiple sources recommend taking a fifteen-minute break from driving for every two hours on the road.
Many highways offer rest stops and rest areas, where you can rest or take a nap, get refreshments, use the restroom, and walk around and stretch. Taking these breaks is important for ensuring comfort and for helping stay alert when returning to driving.
3. Follow the road rules and speed limit
Following road rules is crucial for safe driving. Be sure you are always following the rules of the road, including obeying the speed limit, watching for construction zones, and slowing down if you encounter sub-optimal weather, windy roads, and of course, when it is dark out.
Make sure your headlights are on. Use your bright headlights when there is no oncoming traffic, or when you’re in a particularly dark area without streetlamps. Especially when you are driving in unfamiliar territory, headlights should be on even during the day. Many states have laws about having headlights on in construction zones or during poor weather.
4. Make sure you’re as comfortable as possible
Being comfortable while driving is important for focus and reducing distractions. Especially on long drives, ergonomic cushions for lumbar or cervical support can be helpful. Having a passenger is a good idea for long drives or for driving at night. A passenger allows for conversation, and they can help with directions, spotting problems on the road, or for swapping driving. Consider other comfort factors, like low music playing on the radio or having your window down. Remember that temporary alertness tools like caffeine and cool air aren’t sufficient replacements for real rest, but they can help keep you comfortable.
5. Reduce or eliminate distractions
There are three primary types of distractions while driving: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual is when your hands or feet are being used for something other than driving, such as when you grab a cup of coffee to drink. Visual is when you remove your eyes from the road, such as when viewing a passing billboard. The third, cognitive, is when your mind wanders and takes your attention away from the road. Cognitive distractions become more problematic when the driver is fatigued.
It is important to note that texting while driving involves all three types of distracted driving and is extremely dangerous. No text is so important that it cannot wait to be sent. If something is important, find a safe place to pull over to use your cell phone.
Strive to keep your vehicle tidy so that you don’t have to reach far for things you may need while driving, such as a water bottle. Never, ever look at your phone or other electronic devices while operating a vehicle.
These suggestions are always applicable for good driving habits. They are especially important when driving at night, when your visibility is reduced and when there is a greater likelihood for more drivers on the road who are under the influence. Always practice good driving habits to keep yourself and other drivers on the road safe.