Night Driving Fears
These Simple Techniques
Do you dislike, or fear, night driving? Do you plan your driving so you can avoid driving at night altogether? Then you're in the right place.
Here you will gain confidence by improving your ability to see around your vehicle and into the night.
This page focuses on driving in the country at night. For tips on driving in urban areas at night, go to driving at night.
Dusk To Dawn Driving In The Country
Don't Be Blinded By The Lights
The most common issue with nighttime driving in the country is dealing with oncoming headlights on those two lane highways. I'm talking here about areas where there are no street lamps for ambient light.
A trick I use, especially when confronted with bright oncoming lights, is to force myself to look to the right shoulder of the road. Often it had a white or yellow line painted on the right side. This allows me to stay right and give opposing traffic lots of space.
Remember you tend to drive in the direction you are looking. The reflex action is to look at oncoming lights. Train yourself to look at the right shoulder of the road.
Full Headlight System On, Please
Make sure that your full headlight system is on, not just your running lights. You may think you have your lights on because you see light from the front of your car. Too often it is just your 'running lights'. On my car the dash lights are not all on when I just have the running lights on.
It also means you have no lights on the back of your car. When night driving in the country, your car will not be seen, until too late, by anyone coming up behind you. Be safe. Know that your full headlight system is on.
Turn all inside lights off. When I drive in dark countryside I will often dim my dash lights which improves my ability to see subtle light variations outside the car.
See In The Dark. Avoid The Deer.
Hitting deer and moose while night driving in Ontario, where I live, is a much too common occurrence. Moose, in particular, are large, heavy animals. In an accident they might be killed but they can destroy your car and even you in the process.
The saying 'frozen like a deer caught in the headlights' is not without merit. I have seen deer on the road in front of me and once they see my headlights, they tend to freeze.
I realize that on unlit country roads I am driving 'beyond my headlights'. What I mean by that is that it will take more distance to stop my car than I can 'see' with my headlights. This is why I have trained myself to look beyond my headlights.
I do this by scanning far ahead. I note any ambient light from the moon, approaching cars in the distance, buildings and other light sources. Then, as I scan, I look for shadows that block that ambient light background, specifically, moving shadows.
I may not know what it is that is moving but by watching the shadow I can figure it out, often before I see it in my headlights. If it is in front of me, I have a lot of time to adjust my speed accordingly.
That is why I was able to slow down and move around the deer that 'froze in my headlights'. I also noted that as soon as I moved to the side it seemed to break their spell and they took off in the direction opposite to the one toward which I had moved. It did not take much of a movement.
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Step Into The Deer's 'Shoes'.
Imagine for a moment what approaching headlights directly at you would look like. It would seem that they have no movement at all. They would just be getting bigger and brighter, which would make them mesmerizing.
Consider that the deer may be waiting, with full flight mode on, to see which way this 'predator' chooses to 'attack'. In the instant that any sideways movement is detected, the 'flight mode' takes over and the deer take off in the other direction.
This explanation works for me and along with my scanning techniques has allowed me to avoid numerous night driving accidents with deer, even on a divided highway.
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There are some conditions under which this kind of scanning will be difficult or impossible. Storms, winter or summer, are one such condition and should be avoided. Fog can also reduce visibility to zero and should also be avoided. Find more tips on extreme weather conditions here.
New moon nights will greatly reduce your scanning ability though you can adjust if other weather conditions are normal.
Tension Is A Good Thing
You may experience a higher level of tension with night driving, especially in the country. By intentionally focusing on scanning and seeing around you, you will not have time to focus on your discomfort.
When you notice from time to time that you feel tense, stretch your hands out over the wheel, roll your shoulders or take a deep breath. Find what works for you to release the tension and use it frequently.
Remember that you should be experiencing a little tension behind the wheel, especially driving at night. If you were too relaxed you might doze off and that is much more dangerous.
Your vigilance on the road ensures your safety. You can relax when you get to your destination.
As always, drive safe, drive smart and…
Enjoy Your Ride
I 'm done with night driving, James. Back to driving safety tips, please.
I'm finished with night driving. Home to proven driving tips, James.