DRIVE SAFE IN THE DARK THIS WINTER
It is estimated that in the US while night time driving between 18:00 and 06:00 may only account for approximately 23 percent of all vehicle km travelled, it nevertheless accounts for more than 50 percent of all fatalities for vehicle occupants age 18 and older. The statistics in South Africa are not readily available, but are similar, if not higher.
With winter on its way many motorists are now starting to leave for school and work in the dark and returning in the dark when there is reduced visibility. “At dusk and dawn, drivers definitely lose the advantage of colour and contrast which they have during the day. This is due, in part, to the eye’s ability to adjust,” says Les Mc Master, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA).
Mc Master says there are several ways to protect yourself while driving at night:
- Let your eyes adjust – The human eye naturally adjusts to the darkness, but it can take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to adapt to darkness fully and drivers should reduce speed during this transitional time. Eugene Herbert of MasterDrive, agrees, saying regardless of how effective your headlights are, they do not adequately light sections of the road on either side of the vehicle. He also highlights the danger of glare and recovery time, saying that while most people’s eyes recover from such glare within three to five seconds, recovery times of seven seconds or longer are not uncommon – and this increases with age. “It may be useful to talk to your eye-care provider about special anti-glare glasses that can help you see better at night,” Mc Master advises.
- Don’t drive when tired – Exhaustion severely affects focus and reaction time, so it is advisable to keep driving to a minimum in these circumstances.
- Reduce your speed – In view of the reduced visibility, it is advisable for motorists to reduce their speed. Reaction time while driving is typically 1.5 seconds. This means that if you notice a car suddenly stopping in front of you, it will take you an average of 1.5 seconds to react. Slowing your speed slightly is one of the best ways to avoid head-on collisions, especially at night when your vision distance is limited by your headlights.
- Avoid distractions – Pay attention to all driving safety laws including not speaking on a cellphone. One needs to minimise one’s distractions so that you can focus on the road completely. Cell phones should be turned off and passengers asked to avoid pointing at things outside of the car or socialising in a way that requires your visual attention.