If you’re like most folks, you started driving around the age of sixteen. And chances are these days you seldom, if ever, think about the dangers involved with driving anymore.
But the truth is the time you spend behind the wheel is likely the most dangerous time of your day.
Driving at dawn or dusk can be particularly perilous. Deep shadows caused by the rising or setting sun can hide hazards, including other vehicles or pedestrians stepping out into the road.
And the low on the horizon light from a sunrise or sunset can even be intense enough to blind you, temporarily.
Low light driving tips that can keep you safe
Avoiding driving during those hours, if you can, is a good idea.
But if you do have to be on the road during dawn or dusk there are a few simple changes you can make to keep yourself, and others, safe.
1. Become headlight savvy:
Make sure to switch to low beams when there’s oncoming traffic, but also when you’re following another car closely (a mistake many drivers make). And turn on your headlights BEFORE it gets dark, when the sun is getting lower in the sky. You will find it easier to see as the shadows deepen, and just as important other drivers will be able to see you easier too.
Headlight maintenance can keep you safe when driving at dusk or at night too. But it goes beyond making sure your bulbs are still working.
Cloudy or dirty headlight covers can keep your headlights from doing their job effectively. They can reduce your ability to see, as well as your visibility on the road.
Regularly give your headlights a wipe down to remove road dust and grime. And consider using a headlight restoration kit every year or so to remove cloudiness and keep your headlights shining bright.
When you take your car in for maintenance ask your mechanic to inspect your headlights to make sure they’re properly aimed to light the road in front of you.
2. Get your PhD in glasses:
If you wear prescription glasses next time you get a new pair say yes to the polarized lenses. While it will increase the final cost of your glasses, it’s worth every extra penny. The polarized film will drastically cut down on glare, especially when the sun is setting, and in low light conditions.
Also, avoid wearing dark tinted glasses when you are driving at dusk or at night. If you prefer tinted glasses go for yellow tints which typically don’t block too much light. And if you use sunglasses in the car be very careful about using them at dusk.
If the light is directly in your eyes go ahead and put them on, otherwise set them aside and use your sun visor instead. Dark lenses can dramatically reduce your ability to see clearly as the shadows deepen, and it’s easy to forget you have them on making night driving very dangerous.
3. Keep it clean:
It may seem obvious, but the truth is few of us bother to keep our windshields clean, Dust and grime is easy to ignore during the day, but when the sun is rising or setting it can cause glare and make it very difficult to see.
Keep a bottle of glass cleaner and some rags, newspapers or a roll of paper towels in your trunk, and take the time to wipe down your windshield a couple of times a week. Don’t forget to give the inside of your windshield a cleaning too. Grime can build up inside as well, and off gassing rom the vinyl in the car can leave a film on the windshield that makes it hard to see when sunlight directly hits the glass.
While you’re at it make sure your mirrors are all clean and aimed properly too.
4. Don’t forget the driver:
Eye conditions can sneak up on us, especially as we get older. Regularly get checked for macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. And remember, our vision changes as we age making low-light driving at dawn or dusk a bit riskier.
Low light can affect your depth perception, peripheral vision and color perception, especially if you’re over 50. Reducing your speed, leaving greater distances between you and other cars and even dimming the lights on your dashboard can all be helpful.
Keep in mind it takes up to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to darkness, so remain hyper alert for at least the first half hour after the sun goes down. And if you get temporarily blinded by oncoming headlights don’t panic, Look right towards the edge of the road, and steer along its line until you can see more clearly again.
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