With winter approaching, it’s getting darker earlier and staying dark for much longer. This forces many to commute to work and back, run errands, and socialize after dark, driving in low visibility.
Additionally, around the same time, we lose daylight hours, and we begin to experience cold winters and unexpected weather. By keeping the below tips top of mind in both fall and winter, you can experience a safer commute and reduce your chances of accidents.
1. Watch For Wildlife, Especially At Dusk
If you are driving in the city or on the highway, the odds of you running into a wild animal crossing in front of you may be lower, but the risk is always there. You may encounter a fox, raccoon, opossum, or any other number of small animals. If you can safely stop your car and let them cross, then please do so. However, it’s very important that you are aware of the space between you and the cars behind you and the rate of speed before stopping so you do not get hit. If you must make the choice between the animals’ safety and your own, always choose your own.
In rural areas, especially during dusk, the risk is much higher, so it’s important to watch the treeline on either side of the road for moose, deer, or coyotes who may run out in front of you. Large animals such as deer or moose can cause serious damage to your car or yourself if you hit them. You may notice signs where you are driving that point out animal crossing areas so be extra alert and mindful in those areas. It also helps to slow down so you have more time to brake.
When driving in dark, rural areas, you can turn on your high beams to see clearer in front of you, however, you must make sure to turn them off when approaching other cars.
2. Beware Of Impaired Or Distracted Drivers
We’ve all heard of defensive driving and driving defensively is most important at night. You are far more likely to encounter drivers who are impaired, tired, or simply distracted. It’s very important that you are giving all your attention to what is happening on the road in front of you, beside you, and behind you. Stay alert, follow the rules of the road, and pay attention to any drivers around you who may be speeding, distracted, or behaving erratically in any way.
By noticing which drivers may pose a threat, you’ll be ready to move your vehicle out of harm’s way should you need to.
3. Take The Safest Route, Even If It’s Not The Quickest
When possible, opt for routes that are well-lit and well-maintained. Two-lane highways can be some of the most dangerous to drive at night, as they often have low visibility, sharp turns, hills, and frequent glare from cars driving in the opposite direction.
4. Get Familiar With Your Headlight Settings
Did you know that high beams allow you to expand your field of vision from 45 metres ahead to 90 metres? When driving on dark, desolate roads, it’s crucial to have that expanded vision. However, your high beams will momentarily blind those approaching you, so it’s important you know how to adjust from high beams back to regular headlights and do so to protect approaching cars.
Additionally, when driving on darker, rural roads, we recommend staying behind other cars when possible. If you have a car or two driving in front of you, more road ahead is lit up and visible by their headlights.
Remember, you are legally required to have your headlights on 30 minutes before sunset, until 30 minutes after sunrise. You should also have your headlights on in any weather that makes visibility difficult, such as rain, snow, and smog.
5. Always Keep Your Windshield Clean
When driving at night or even during sunset, the dirt and grime that has built up on your windshield can seriously impact your vision. This dirt can accumulate quickly, so it’s always a good idea to take a minute before leaving on your trip to ensure your windshield is clean. It’s also important to ensure that you have enough windshield washer fluid for your entire trip as you do not know how many times you’ll have to clean off your windshield on the trip.
We suggest always keeping an extra container of windshield wiper fluid in your car, so you can top up in an emergency.
It’s also important to note that windshield wipers need replacing fairly frequently, so if they aren’t working as well as they should, then it’s time to replace them.
6. Adjust Interior Lights To Turn Them Down
In daylight, dashboard lights, GPS devices, and other electrical devices often need to be quite bright to be seen. However, come nighttime, these bright screens can become distracting and make it difficult to see the dark road in front of you.
In many cars, the dashboard lights will automatically turn down when your headlights are turned on. However, if they don’t, make sure to manually do so before leaving on your trip. Make sure your phone is away and out of sight, but if it’s nearby, turn down the brightness, along with your GPS and other devices.
Doing this will help your eyes adjust to outside lighting and lower reflections on your windshield.
7. Adjust Mirrors To The Anti-Glare Setting
Most, if not all, cars have rear-view mirrors that feature an anti-glare function. These are often called “day-night” mirrors. Some cars even adjust the mirror automatically when headlights are turned on. However, if you are getting glare from the headlights behind you, you can adjust your rear-view mirror to minimize glare and improve visibility.
8. Protect Your Eyes
While you may be alert and respectful of other drivers by turning off your high beams when approaching, others may either not care or forget. When approaching these vehicles, it’s a good idea to look down and to the right. You will still be able to see the edge of the road and other lane markings so you can stay inside your lane, but your eyes will be protected while you pass them.
Additionally, as many get older, night driving can become increasingly difficult. You may even require glasses for driving at night. That’s why it’s important to see an optometrist regularly even if you have good vision. It’s important that you can always see clearly ahead of you when driving.
Additional Considerations For Safe Night Driving
1. Always Have Sunglasses In Your Car
The sun is lower in the sky during fall. Therefore, you should keep a pair of sunglasses in your glove compartment. A proper pair of sunglasses can improve visibility by filtering out 90 percent of UVB and UVA rays. The result is less eye strain and better visibility during periods of sun glare in the early mornings (7:30 am to 9:00 am) and before sunset (5:00 pm – 6:30 pm).
2. Reduce Your Speed
At night, your visibility is often reduced to how far ahead your headlights illuminate. If you are driving too quickly, you may not be able to brake fast enough to avoid oncoming threats. To help, reduce your speed and keep at least one car length between you and the car in front of you.
Double your braking distance during fog, rain, and snow to ensure that you have enough time to come to a complete stop. Insurance claims spike during the months of November, December, and January. Drivers are encouraged to keep three car lengths of space between themselves and other drivers if they are journeying through heavy fog, rain, or snow.
3. Check Tire Pressure
Tires contract and expand far more in colder weather, so drivers will need to regularly check their tire pressure during the fall months. Tire pressure tends to drop even faster as the weather becomes cooler. With a 10-degree drop in temperature, expect a 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) decrease in tire pressure.
4. Watch Out For Black Ice & Hydroplaning
You should always drive to the speed limit but remember to drive under it once temperatures dip below freezing. So-called “black ice” can catch drivers off guard, increasing the likelihood of a collision. Transport Canada reports that black ice is most common between 4°C and -4°C and is especially common on bridges and overpasses.
Hydroplaning is typically caused by the mixing of dirt and oil on roads after rainfall. This build-up can ride along on top of tires, causing cars to lose their traction and create a spinning or sliding motion. This of course can cause drivers to slide into traffic or other objects, presenting an incredible danger to themselves and those around them. Hydroplaning can even be experienced after light spring rainfall too, so please remain cautious under any weather conditions.
Those who drive with tires that are heavily worn are even more susceptible to hydroplaning. Additionally, the higher the speed, the more likely a driver is to hydroplane through puddles that might appear harmless but could cause a deadly accident. Ottawans are encouraged to drive carefully during or after rainfall, as regular tire maintenance and a little extra caution on roads can be the difference between life and death.
If You’ve Been Injured In A Car Accident, MG Law Can Help File Your Car Accident Claim
Remember, MG Law is experienced in handling car accident claims of all kinds. Whether you’re an Ontario resident injured in Ontario, or a Quebec resident injured when visiting Ontario, call 613-730-8460 to speak to our team of highly experienced car accident lawyers today. We work hard to provide you with all the details, so you can make informed decisions going forward.