Night driving - a whole different experience
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
Good vision habits are the basis for safe driving, so when it's dark and headlights are glaring at you, your vision and therefore your safety is compromised. It is much more difficult to see possible dangers unfolding and therefore a driver has little, if any, time to plan a course of action to avoid a dangerous situation. This means the likelihood of a crash is much higher after dark.
Let's face it, we humans are unpredictable at times, particularly after a long day at work or school. When we are tired we can make some bad decisions. As a driver, we need to be able to protect ourselves from the possibility of being caught up in someone else's bad choices.
When driving in daylight hours, we can clearly see pedestrians and other drivers and therefore we can observe if they are looking directly at us as we approach. It is fairly safe to presume that if they see us, they will not run out in front of us or drive into us, (eg. at intersections or turning out from side streets). However, if they are not looking at us then we should prepare ourselves to avoid a possible crash situation by slowing down and tapping the horn if necessary to grab their attention. This is what safe driving is all about.
To maintain our safety at night, when our vision is compromised, we need to reduce our general speed in busy areas where there are lots of headlights and activity which will give us more time to take in the big picture and prepare for the unexpected.
So, what if you are the driver trying to turn on to a main road from a side street, or turning at an intersection? Your next challenge at night is safe gap selection, so you don't become the driver who made the bad decision.
At night, the only visible part of an approaching vehicle are the headlights which makes it much more difficult to judge the 'closing speed' and position of this vehicle in reference to our own car. During the day we are able to see the three dimensional details of the approaching vehicle and therefore we are able to determine the closing speed more accurately.
Simply, we need to take more care with our gap selection at night before we make that turn!
Tips for learner drivers and their home tutors:
A learner driver is required to have a minimum of 20 hours night driving practice which is documented in the logbook. These logged hours must occur from the official sunset time relevant to the season and your location; or if you are a very early riser, prior to sunrise. Therefore, trying to fulfill your night hours during the summer months can be a challenge unless you are prepared to drive from about 8pm at night.
Yes, examiners do check this and many learner drivers have been turned away on test day due to a lack of sufficient 'official' night time hours in their logbook. A learner driver has 12 months minimum to practice, so try and plan ahead and make use of the winter when the days are shorter and it's much easier to accumulate the required experience.
In terms of the '3 for 1' with a professional driving instructor, you only get one hour attributed towards night driving, with the remaining 2 bonus hours put towards your daytime hours - no short cuts for this one!
Seems a bit dark and confusing? Then contact me! We are here to support your home practice and keep you all safer on the road.