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Tips for Driving in the Dark

Although there are significantly fewer drivers on the road after dark, data released by the National Safety Council shows that 48% (17,056) of the 35,766 fatal accidents in 2020 occurred after sundown.

Besides reduced visibility after dark, several other reasons make driving at night dangerous, such as an increased likelihood of encountering nocturnal animals and drunk drivers. Understanding how to drive safely in the dark can reduce your chances of being involved in a collision.

Nighttime Driving and Your Safety

Nearly half of all accidents occur after dark, making driving after sundown a risk to driver safety. Some factors contributing to the increase in accidents at night include:

  • Drunk Drivers

According to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 58% of all fatal crashes between midnight and 3:00 a.m. involved a drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding o.08.

  • Reduced Visibility

At night visibility is limited to just 250 feet with regular headlights and 500 feet with high beams. This means drivers deal with poor visibility, depth perception, peripheral vision, and even color recognition. Limited visibility can impact reaction times and stopping distances, increasing the likelihood of a collision.

Headlight glare also poses a significant problem on the roads at night. High-beam headlights from oncoming vehicles can temporarily blind drivers, causing them to avert their eyes from the road, increasing the risk of an accident.

Reduced nighttime visibility is compounded in older individuals. The National Safety Council estimates that 50-year-old drivers need twice as much light to see as a 30-year-old.

  • Nocturnal Animals

According to a 2008 Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology report, approximately 300,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) occurred on the nation’s roads. However, the FHWA believes that many WVCs are underreported and that the number could reach as high as 2 million collisions. The most common animal drivers encounter on the road is deer, representing up to 12% of all WVCs.

The report also stated that because deer are most active around dawn and dusk, WVCs occur most often between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., and between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m.

Tips for Driving After Dark

While there is a higher risk of an accident during nighttime hours, many drivers travel during this timeframe due to work, family, recreational commitments, and emergencies. If you must drive after dark, use these tips to keep yourself safe on the road:

  • Maintain a Safe Speed

Maintain a speed that allows you to stop or maneuver quickly if necessary. The stopping distance when driving at 60 MPH is approximately 304 feet when driving in good weather. If your headlights only provide 250 feet of visibility at night, you do not have enough time to react and brake. However, reducing your speed to 50 MPH provides a stopping distance of 229 feet, allowing you adequate time to react.

You should also maintain a slower speed if driving on rural roads. From 1998-2008, rural fatalities accounted for around 56% of all road fatalities. In 2008, the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles was 2.6 higher on rural roads than on urban ones.

  • Drive in Good Weather, if Possible

Visibility is limited during nighttime hours; however, during bad weather (such as a thunderstorm), visibility can decrease even more, making it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of your vehicle. Inclement weather also increases your stopping distance due to reduced friction on the road.

If possible, plan your trips around bad weather, as decreased visibility and reduced traction can increase the odds of an accident.

  • Check Your Lights

Your headlights help improve visibility and are your most valuable night-driving tool, so it is essential to check that your headlights are functioning properly and producing enough illumination before you begin your journey. Besides your headlights, ensure that your taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are also working.

Limiting the brightness in your car by setting your dashboard lights to a low setting can reduce the contrast between bright and dark, also helping you see better at night.

  • Watch for Drunk Drivers

With a greater proportion of drunk drivers on the road during the night, it is important to watch for the signs of impaired driving in your fellow drivers. If you see a driver swerving, varying speed, or failing to use their headlights, they may be driving under the influence.

The best action is to stay behind and keep a large distance between yourself and the impaired driver. If you attempt to pass them, you increase your risk of a collision.

  • Don’t Drive if You’re Tired

According to the National Safety Council, driving while tired is similar to driving under the influence; driving 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to driving at the legal BAC limit.

Reaction time, awareness, and attention span all decrease when tired, increasing your risk of an accident by three times. Make sure you are well-rested before driving at night.

Car Accident Lawyers at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers

If you are involved in an accident after dark, it is vital to seek an experienced car accident attorney in Wisconsin to increase your chances of receiving the compensation you deserve.

One of the primary reasons to hire a car accident lawyer is to help navigate Wisconsin’s at-fault automotive accident laws. Reduced road traffic and visibility at night make it challenging to find evidence like witness statements and video footage to support an auto accident claim.

The attorneys at Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers have years of experience successfully representing the victims of car accidents. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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