How To Drive At Night & After Dark

Last Updated: 01/04/2021

According to national safety research bodies, the most dangerous time to drive is at night.

A combination of poor light, poor night vision, impaired drivers and peak hour traffic can all contribute to a fatal crash.

In fact, you are three times more likely to be killed whilst driving at night than at any other time of the day.

Falling asleep at the wheel or losing concentration can often be attributed to lack of good quality sleep, shift working, long hours at work, or certain sleep disorders.

Many drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel and say that they did not think that they were as tired as they were.

As we move into the autumn and winter times, many drivers will have to drive during the hours of darkness.

The dark does strange things to our sight, especially if we are older drivers.

Our perceptions change and our ability to recognise colour alters.

Our peripheral vision can be much more limited in the dark and the glare of headlights from oncoming vehicles can cause difficulties.

Using high-beam headlights can help when driving in the dark but they do not give full visibility meaning we have less time to react to something on the road.

This is particularly problematic if driving at high speeds, for example on the motorway.

The times when most crashes or near misses happen, tend to be during these busiest hours (rush hours):

  • 4am – 6am
  • 12pm – 2am
  • 4pm – 7pm

What You Will Learn

To help get you prepared, we have put together this useful guide which will give you the guidance you need so you can drive at night with confidence.

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

It is important that if you have not slept for 24 hours or more, do not drive.

Make sure you have at least seven hours of sleep before driving.

If you are on a long journey make sure you stop every couple of hours to rest.

Always pull over and have a nap if you feel drowsy.

Fatigue is a real killer on the roads at both day and night, so ensuring you’re in the best condition possible for driving it vital.

Take a look at our guide for how to deal with fatigue, drowsiness and tiredness when driving for more information, advice, hints and tips for coping if you simply must drive when you’re tired.

If you are driving at night, or in poor weather conditions it is important that you use your headlights and keep them clean.

Drive slower than normal to enable you to stop quickly if necessary.

Check with your GP to see if any medications you are on may affect you driving at night.

Peak Driving Times:

The rush hours in cities and on motorways bring together drivers keen to get home, especially in the dark and cold months.

This situation is particularly dangerous for drivers but the following actions may help to reduce the possibility of being involved in a crash:

  • Even though you are driving on a familiar route, don’t let your concentration drop. Keep alert and be patient. The dark can bring out animals, for example, and make them harder to spot. Pedestrians, cyclists and children are all much harder to spot, so no matter how well you know the road slow down in the dark.
  • Drive slowly and keep an eye on other impatient drivers as they move backwards and forwards into lanes.
  • Do not be rushed or intimidated by other drivers. They may think they know the road really well and are looking to rush you or overtake so they can get home quicker. This is stupid and can be fatal. Stick to your guns and concentrate on safety. If the other driver is driving dangerously, find a safe place to pull-over and let them pass. It’s simply not worth the risk of driving around people like that.
  • Do not be tempted to reach for your phone when driving at night. Put it out of the reach of temptation. Use sat-nav or consult a map before you start your journey so that you don’t get lost in the dark. Along similar lines, do not try to alter your sat-nav while driving as this lapse in concentration can be costly.
  • Keep it dark inside your car: One issue that driver’s do not always realise until it’s too late is how important it is to keep the inside of your car dark when you’re driving in the dark. If a passenger is using a tablet or phone, or turns an interior light on, this can cause reflections in your windscreen when driving in the dark, making it hard to see out. Keep all lights and devices in the car switched off.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

If you slow down, stay alert and be aware of the actions of other drivers when driving in the dark, you will significantly increase your chances of arriving home safely.

Most of us only drive in the dark for about one quarter of our total driving, yet half of fatal road accidents happen at night.

It is immaterial whether the road is familiar or strange to drivers, it is the dark conditions that kill.

While we do only one quarter of our driving at night, 50% of traffic deaths happen at night.

It doesn’t matter whether the road is familiar or not, driving at night is always more dangerous.

Final Thoughts

Every day, fatalities on our roads can be linked to drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs (recreational or prescribed).

Statistically, drivers under the influence are most likely driving in the dark, particularly at weekends at the early hours of the morning.

Although drink driving has decreased over the past ten years, the number of drivers who are driving under the influence of drugs has increased.

Further Resources