Driving At Night: 13 Tips To Travel Safely

dirving at night
Source: ambrozinio/Shutterstock

Driving can be hazardous, regardless of the weather conditions, yet some situations can make it even more dangerous. Driving at night is the perfect example of this.

At night visibility is low and drivers experience fatigue or suffer the effects of aging. In fact, fatal crashes triple at night, which is why you need to be especially careful.

To help reduce the risk of an accident while driving at night, consider the following tips.

Why Do So Many Crashes Happen During The Night?

There are several causes that explain this:

  • Night vision problems: millions of American drivers suffer from vision impairments – many undiagnosed – which affect their ability to navigate their vehicle during nights and risks the lives of other drivers.
  • Impaired driving: in 2016, more than 1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) – 1% of all reported cases – and almost 30% of all traffic-related deaths involved alcohol-impaired drivers. This sort of behavior endangers the lives of everyone (drivers and pedestrians).
  • Fatigue: a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation indicates that 60% of Americans have driven while they were tired and 37% have actually fallen asleep behind the wheel. Fatigue is generally caused by sleep disorders, long work hours, shift changes, or not getting enough quality sleep, and according to an NHTSA report, 100,000 crashes are caused by fatigue.
  • Aging: Did you know that 50-year olds need at least two times more light to see as well as a 30-year old does? Additionally, many older drivers suffer degenerative eye diseases, cataracts, glaucoma or dry eye, compromising their ability to see properly.

Tips To Improve Your Driving At Night

Hence, it’s crucial to be especially careful behind the wheel during night time. To help you safely navigate the streets at night, consider the following 12 tips:

1. Visit Your Ophthalmologist

Whether you have to drive during the day or at night, periodical eye check-ups are essential. Vision changes as we grow older, and because it should be at its finest while driving, especially at night, you need to take an eye exam at least once a year.

2. Prepare For The Road Ahead

If you are planning a long trip, downloading a map to closely examine the road is always a good idea. Get acquainted with the street signs, the lighting such streets have, potential risks you might have to face such as wild animals, and consider possible places where you can stop for refreshments, bathroom or rest breaks. Checking weather conditions is also crucial. Be prepared.

3. Check Your Windows

Driving at night is already dangerous, which is why there’s no need to increase such risks. Not being able to see through your windows limits your overall visibility – you will not see the trees on the side, you won’t be able to spot cars next to yours or animals that try to cross the street (and that can be quite dangerous for drivers), etc.

4. Drive defensively

As we mentioned before, it isn’t unusual for drivers to have visual impairments, to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs or to be fatigued and still be behind the wheel, which is why every person driving at night needs to be alert and aware of his or her surroundings, including other drivers. A few ways in which you can reduce the risk of a crash are:

  • Use lights wisely. Lights cannot affect your vision while driving at night, and neither should they affect the vision of other drivers, particularly of those that come from the opposite side of the road, because it can be especially dangerous for both you and them.
  • Add considerable distance between your car and others. Proximity to other cars can reduce both your perception and reaction times when the car in front of you stops or slows down, increasing the risk of an accident. A two-second distance is a minimum time advised between you and the car in front of you. Should the weather be bad, increase that time to four seconds.
  • Expect the unexpected: assume any driver can have an abrupt and unforeseen reaction and try to always be prepared to face such situations. Think and, most importantly, plan ahead.
  • Avoid any distractions: focus completely on your driving. Don’t look at your phone, avoid picking up anything that falls to the floor, keep essential items such as toll cards or fees within reach.

5. Mind Pedestrians

Driving, and especially driving at night, not only means looking out for yourself but also paying attention to your surroundings, which implies not only other drivers but pedestrians. There are quite a few cities and towns that are crossed by interstate routes, increasing pedestrian presence around such streets. The risk of not noticing these individuals increases at night, which is why drivers need to be fully alert.

6. Take Your Time

Avoid time pressures when driving. Time constraints increase stress levels, they can negatively influence your emotions and also lead to drivers taking unnecessary risks behind the wheel, such as speeding. Take your time, especially if you are traveling long distances. Stay within speed limits and plan stops.

7. Check Headlights And Dashboard Lights

Driving at night is considerably more dangerous when your lights – whether insider or outside the vehicle – don’t work properly. Driving at night without headlights is actually illegal. Fines vary, but generally, traffic tickets cost between $130 and $200.


Most states require two functioning headlights on cars, and the moment it turns dark outside they must be on. However, in some states such as California, headlights also must be turned on from at least 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise. Additionally, should visibility below, headlights must be turned on during the day.

Making sure your headlights are aligned properly is crucial when driving at night. Misaligned lights can impair the vision of other drivers, shining into their mirrors or into their eyes, and can also affect your own ability to see signs or possible obstacles in the road.

Dashboard lights

Dashboard lights are also crucial to drive safely at night. These lights indicate any possible problem the car might be having—find out what each color and sign means in your owner’s manual. They can be turned on in the control switch, generally located on the console. You can dim the lights with that switch as well.

If the dashboard lights on your car flicker, your battery might be failing, something you don’t want to ignore because should it fail completely, your car will stop and probably not start again. If only one gauge fails, then it might just be that gauge that’s failing or the sensor isn’t working correctly.

Dashboard lights are crucial because not only can you check the speed you are traveling at, but they also indicate:

  • low fuel (normally there is one to two gallons of fuel left)
  • brake system trouble
  • anti-lock brake system trouble
  • low air pressure in the tires
  • airbag system problems
  • battery voltage is below normal
  • low engine oil pressure or pressure sensor
  • faulty emission control system
  • doors aren’t shutting correctly

If your headlights are properly aligned but your car is old, check on whether the lights are bright. If they seem to be dimmed, polish them.

8. Wear The Right Glasses

Glasses are used by most American adults. In fact, the Vision Council of America indicates that approximately 75% of adults use either eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. If this is your case, to improve your night driving vision, there are quite a few things you can do. Firstly, to ensure your eyeglasses are right, visit the ophthalmologist at least once a year. Once you turn 40, regular eye exams are even more necessary since your eyesight begins to suffer the effects of aging. Secondly, make sure your glasses have an anti-reflective coating since it can reduce glare. You can also get glasses with wavefront diagnostic technology, which helps reduce any kind of aberrations such as halos or starbursts.

Additionally, if you suffer from any special condition or disease, ophthalmologists are the best professionals to diagnose and treat them, helping improve your eyesight considerably.

Finally, any person who wears glasses needs to keep them clean at all times to have a clear unobstructed vision.

9. Be On The Lookout For Animals

Depending on which area you are currently driving through, the sort of animals you might come across. There are several nocturnal animals you can generally find in U.S. roads: armadillos, hedgehogs, coyotes, bats, raccoons…They tend to feel disoriented around artificial light, which interferes with their vision and causes them to cross highways.

Additionally, breeding seasons can also lead to a large volume of mammals in certain areas, which increases the risk of coming across them. For instance, autumn marks the beginning of the dear breeding season, and these animals tend to be especially active during sunset, as do raccoons, who normally breed between January and June. Therefore, if you’re driving near the woods, try to slow down and be careful.

By driving more slowly than usual through such areas you can make sure that, should you come across any animal on the road, you’ll have enough time to stop without leaving your lane. Keep calm, avoid harsh sudden braking and swerving violently.

10. Clean Your Windshield and Mirrors

Sometimes your windshield seems perfectly clean and stainless during daylight, but when you’re driving at night, this might not actually be the case. Remember not only to clean the outside of your windshield but also the inside, since it can accumulate dirt and dust. Smoking can also stain the windshield, since smoke particles adhere to it, reducing your visibility.

To clean your windshield you do not need expensive cleaning solutions, you can simply make your own at home. Simply mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water, pour it into a spray bottle, shake it and apply it onto both the outside and the inside of the windshield. Use safety glasses to avoid getting vinegar in your eyes. Clean it with a microfiber towel. Additionally, when applying the solution inside the car, lay a few towels in the dashboard to avoid getting that solution on it and causing any damage. If you haven’t cleaned your windshield in a while, flip the cloth when it has accumulated too much dirt, and if necessary, use another clean cloth.

Mirrors must also be clean, otherwise, they can reflect the lights from any car behind yours in a more diffused shape. To clean your mirrors we recommend using a glass cleaner as well as a clean cloth. Consider the following tips to get a better result:

  • Move the car to a shady place. Wait for the glass and paint to cool down, because otherwise, the cleaner will evaporate too quickly, leaving stains.
  • Avoid using multipurpose cleaners, since these can leave smudges.
  • Clean in circles instead of wiping the mirrors diagonally or horizontally.
  • Spray the cleaner in the cloth, avoid applying it directly on the mirror. That way you can avoid the excess cleaner getting into the housing of the mirror.

11. If Necessary, Use Fog Lights

Fog lights help improve your vision while driving at night through mist and fog. Additionally, fog lights can also be useful in rough roads, where bumps, potholes, water-filled dips and grooves, etc.

12. Take Sleep Breaks

If you have a long road ahead, don’t try to do the entire stretch at once, especially if you are tired. Fatigue causes countless accidents, which is why if you feel tired while driving at night simply stop and rest. Even if you have time constraints, it is best to stop and take a short nap (at least 15 minutes) every two or three hours and drink coffee – or any other drink that helps you stay awake and alert.

13. Don’t Smoke

Smoking will not only stain your windshield, which compromises your visibility, especially while driving at night when visibility is already low but also, according to smokefree.gov, nicotine also affects your vision but inhibiting the production of a chemical that is essential to improve your vision. Additionally, it distracts you.

Driving at night should be taken seriously. Although it is often underrated, accident rates at night are three times more frequent than during the day, so make sure you are prepared and avoid unnecessary risks.