Properly functioning headlights are important when it comes to night driving, but it’s surprising how many drivers neglect this aspect of car maintenance.

Traffic accidents continue to be the No. 1 killer of teens in Colorado and across the nation, and now that we are heading into the summer months, more teen drivers will be on the road.

Some of that driving will take place at night and authorities want to remind everyone — especially young, inexperienced motorists — that night driving carries a greater risk of car accidents than driving during the day. However, there are things you can do to prepare for driving after sunset.

More Traffic Fatalities Occur at Night

According to the National Safety Council, the traffic death rate is much higher at night than during the day.

And, in 2015, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety/Highway Loss Data Institute reviewed teen vehicle fatalities and when those deaths occurred. The institutes found that of 2,715 teen fatalities, more than half occurred at night. Specifically, the study found that between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., 1,534 teens were killed in car accidents.

What’s more, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens are more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and make more critical decision errors than older drivers are. This plays a role in night driving since driver visibility is one of the factors contributing to fatalities.

Driving in the Dark

Darkness is the No. 1 reason night driving is more dangerous than driving during the day, according to the National Safety Council. Ninety percent of how we react when driving depends on what we see. Lack of light causes dramatic changes to depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision. If you can’t see far down the road, it’s much harder to avoid hazards because your reaction time is cut down dramatically, which leads to our next subject: headlights.

While most of us keep our cars tuned and in working order with scheduled oil changes, tire rotation, and other maintenance, headlights are often overlooked, especially if you usually drive in well-lit areas. The National Organization for Youth Safety has some simple tips on headlight maintenance:

  • Replace headlights before they burn out. Headlights dim over time, which means less light on the road. Dimmed headlights can reduce the reach of light on the road by 10 to 30 feet.
  • If you need to replace a burned-out headlight, replace both even if the other headlight is working properly to prevent an uneven field of vision, which can be a distraction.
  • Make sure your headlights are aimed at the road and not angled outward. Improperly aligned lights reduce the light on the road and can be a hazard for oncoming drivers because the light can interfere with their vision.

Teaching young drivers these simple precautions and educating them on how vision is impacted in darkness can make driving at night safer and cut down on the number of accidents and associated fatalities.

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