How do I drive at night?
Most driving lessons take place during daylight hours. So it’s not surprising that learners and newly passed drivers may not have much experience of driving after dark.
But it’s definitely worth getting this experience, as you’ll have to drive at night at some point, so it’s best to feel comfortable doing it.
Here’s what to expect.
Is it dangerous to drive in the dark?
Limited visibility at night does mean that accidents may happen. In fact, according to accident-prevention charity RoSPA, 40% of collisions on the road happen when it’s dark.
It’s harder to spot other road users in the dark – in particular vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists. This is especially the case if they’re wearing dark clothes, and don’t have lights or reflective strips.
Even if vehicles have lights, it can still be difficult to judge speed and distance at night.
It can also be harder to make out road markings and signs. Doubly so if it’s raining.
Add this to the fact that road users are more likely to be fatigued at night, and you’ve got a recipe for risky driving.
Although this may sound daunting, with more practice, you’ll become a much safer night-time driver. It’s just a matter of staying alert, and on top of your game.
Can learner drivers drive at night?
Yes indeed! If you tick all the boxes for driving legally, you can drive after dark as a learner.
We’d go further, and say that having a handful of night-time lessons is the way forward. It’s helpful to clock up experience of driving in all sorts of conditions. So the sooner you get used to it, the better.
What do I need to know about driving at night?
There are a few things worth bearing in mind before tackling night-time driving.
Driving at night requires concentration, so it’s always best to be well rested and fully alert before you get behind the wheel. If you know you’re going to be making a trip in the dark, set aside some time to relax and decompress before you go. Maybe even take a delicious nap!
While things like coffee may help to perk you up, this is only a short-term answer. There’s no substitute for making a journey while properly rested.
Also, bear in mind that it’s a time when we’re naturally tired. So even if you’re 100% in the game, other road users may not be.
According to rule 226 of The Highway Code, you “MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet).” You should definitely have your headlights on at night, so you can see better, and other road users can see you too. The capital ‘MUST’ means it’s a legal requirement.
In well-lit areas such as in towns or cities, using dipped headlights is usually enough. If it’s super dark, you can pop on your full beams – but be careful not to dazzle other road users, including pedestrians and cyclists. If there are any road users visible in front of you, switch to dipped lights.
Now and again, you might get dazzled by other drivers’ headlights. If this happens, don’t look directly at them. Instead, concentrate on the kerb on the left-hand side of the road. This will help you stay on course until the vehicle passes you.
Keeping your car nice and clean isn’t just about it being shiny. It’s also helpful to keep your windows and windscreen clean – both inside and out – as this improves visibility. In particular, it’ll help stop glare at night, which can be distracting.
Your outside visibility will also be improved if you keep the light inside the car to a minimum. This means keeping the interior light off, and having your dash lights on their dimmest usable setting. Same with your phone if you’re using it for sat nav.
Take regular breaks
If you’re making a fairly long night-time journey, be sure to stop for regular rests. This is good advice anyway, but especially after dark, when it’s easier to tire out.
According to The Highway Code rule 91, for every two hours behind the wheel, you should have a break of at least 15 minutes. So try not to be in a rush, and make sure you leave bags of time to get to your destination.
Ace your driving score: Night-time driving
Please be aware that – because driving after dark is considered high risk – it may negatively affect your Driverly driving score if you do it frequently. However, please don’t worry if you have to drive at night every now and again.