• Tom Girardi

Do you know how much more dangerous it is to drive at night?

It's that time of year again. Even if you live in Southern California, some people still drive to work and drive home in the dark. In addition, with the holidays just around the corner, we are entering one of the most dangerous driving times of the year.

Even if you have great night-vision, the way your eyes and mind perceive things changes after the sun goes down. Take extra precautions when driving while it's dark. A large number of crashes occur at night. Here's why.

First, the data

To put the problem of driving at night into perspective, consider the information below:

  • If you are age 40 or older, there's a 40% chance you already feel uneasy driving at night.

  • Glare impedes your vision, and it takes longer for your eyes to recover after it's gone.

  • It's more difficult for your eyes to gauge objects, distinguish contrast and accurately determine distance in low-light situations.

  • It's more difficult to identify a pothole or pedestrian in the road in the dark.

  • Your vision provides somewhere in the neighborhood of 85% of the information you need in order to drive safely.

  • Your reaction time depends on your vision up to 90% of the time, which means your reaction time slows at night.

  • You make around 20 decisions for each mile you drive, and you have only about half a second to react. This becomes more difficult at night.

With all these factors working against nighttime drivers, it's no wonder that the risk of fatalities increases by a factor of three at night.

Tips to improve safe nighttime driving

If you must drive at night, you could improve your chances of getting home safely by adhering to the following:

  • Allow yourself more time to react to any obstacles or emergencies you may encounter by not speeding.

  • Increase the distance between you and any other vehicles for the same reason.

  • Make sure you check your mirrors often and don't get distracted. You may have as little as half a second to respond to any situation that comes up.

  • Make sure your headlights are clean and aimed properly. The more light you have, the better your chances are of seeing something as soon as possible to react appropriately.

Of course, fatigue and drinking even one drink only exacerbate the problem.

If you follow all the rules but someone else doesn't, you could end up suffering injuries due to the other driver's recklessness or negligence. Be safe out there this holiday season.