It should come as no surprise that night driving can be dangerous. Research has shown that drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident at night. This is especially true for teen drivers.
The latest available statistics say that in 2015, 2,715 people ages 13-19 were killed in auto accidents, a 3 percent increase from 2014. And according to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia‘s teendriversource website, 58 percent of teen-driven car crashes, both fatal and non-fatal, occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and midnight.
The resource also notes that states with night-driving restrictions in place see up to a 60 percent reduction in crashes during restricted hours. In Colorado, there is a curfew for first-year licensed drivers — no driving between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. unless accompanied by an instructor, parent, or legal guardian.
All Drivers at Risk
It’s just a fact of life that as we age our eyesight changes, which can make seeing at night extremely difficult. Those 50 and older may need twice as much light at night to see as well as someone in their 30s or 40s. Not only does age play a part in night vision, but medical conditions such as cataracts or degenerative eye disease can also impair vision, which makes driving at night even more difficult. Obviously, the safest thing to do if you have difficulty seeing well at night is to limit your driving to daytime.
Fatigue Is a Factor
According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 60 percent of adults questioned say they have driven while tired. Another 37 percent admit to falling asleep while driving at least once a month due to fatigue. Fatigue can be caused by many things, including the most obvious one: lack of sleep. Shift workers or those with sleep disorders are also prone to fatigue, so getting behind the wheel, especially when it’s dark, can be deadly.
Drowsy driving is dangerous because sleep deprivation can have similar effects on your body as drinking alcohol. Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05 (for reference, .08 is considered drunk). If you’ve been awake for a full 24 hours and drive — say, after a night where you just couldn’t fall asleep — it’s like you have a blood alcohol level of .10.
Driving Safely at Night
Regardless of your age, depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision can be compromised when driving in the dark, and that can make for a dangerous situation. Even with your high-beams on, your visibility is limited to about 500 feet at night. Despite the challenges, there are some things that will help both young and older drivers be safe at night:
- Dim your dashboard
- Look away from oncoming lights
- If you wear glasses, make sure they are anti-reflective
- Make sure your headlights and windshield are clean
- Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and reduced reactions time