Did you know that we lose an average of 2 minutes of daylight everyday this time of year. It is true – an entire 2 minutes a day. That means over the course of the month of October, from start to finish, there are 60 minutes less of evening light by which to navigate your way home at the end of the work day. Most people do not naturally adjust well to driving in the dark. They may not be truly night blind, but they most definitely have worse vision than they have during the day. Knowing this, it is important that every driver do everything they can in order to adjust to driving at night.
In line with our other pieces in this vein, we are offering this one to keep you safe while driving this fall.
Night Driving Is Different
Some people with poor vision are affected at any age by driving at night. However most poor night drivers are naturally poor due to their age, rather than being less than good by skill. That is an inherently complicated way of saying that the older drivers get worse night driving skills. Here is a summary of how that breaks down, according to the National Safety Council (NSC):
Night vision is the ability to see well in low-light conditions. As we age, we have greater difficulty seeing at night. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. At age 60 and older, driving can become even more difficult, according to the American Optometric Association. Some older drivers also may have compromised vision due to cataracts and degenerative eye diseases.
The AOA recommends older drivers:
- Have annual vision exams
- Reduce speed
- Take a driving course; even experienced drivers can benefit from a refresher course, and some of the rules have probably changed
- Minimize distractions, like talking with passengers or listening to the radio
- Check with your doctor about side effects of prescription drugs
- Limit driving to daytime hours if necessary
This is really important if you live in Pennsylvania, like we do, because we have one of the fastest growing senior populations in the country. In fact, as noted by PennState, we are a ‘slow growth state.’ This means that our senior population is our fastest growing segment.
The growth of the state’s general population overshadows an important trend in Pennsylvania’s changing composition: the elderly population (age 65 and over) growth occurred at rate over 20 times that of the state’s general population – an increase by 16.3 percent from 2010 to 2017. Pennsylvania’s age make-up skewed older than the nation in 2017. Pennsylvania ranked fifth among the fifty states by the sheer size of its population age 65 and over (2.2 million) and seventh by percentage (17.8%). Pennsylvania has a larger share of older adults (starting with 48-year-olds) in every single-year age cohort with 5-year-olds representing the largest group. The youth and young adult populations constitute a larger percentage of the nation’s population (with the exception of 18 to 20-year-olds) where the largest single-year age cohort is 26-year-olds.
This means that more drivers well over 50 can be expected to be on PA’s roads. Which means that they are a hazard to themselves at night, as well as to everyone else.
What It Takes To Drive At Night
One of our favorite go-to resources for all things driving is Popular Mechanic. They put together a great resource that provides some real tips and tricks for night driving. They start by stating what we have been reiterating, “Driving at night is dreadful and dangerous. Road fatalities triple during the night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Human eyes don’t help much either. They’re terrible at seeing at night with depth perception, peripheral vision, and ability to distinguish color diminished. Although headlights illuminate the road, typical low beams stretch from 160 to 250 feet in front of your vehicle, while high beams shine about 350 to 500 feet ahead. When you’re driving at 60 mph, it takes more than 200 feet to stop, so there’s not much room for error. So to traverse these dangerous and dark roads, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when driving after the sun goes down.”
Their advice from that point can be summarized as:
- Aim your headlights
- Dim your instrument panel and dash lights
- Become a retina spotter
- Don’t stare at incoming lights
- Keep your windshield clean
- Add fog and auxiliary lights
- Clean and adjust your mirrors
- Make sure your eyes are healthy
This will all go a long way toward helping to keep any driver of any age safe for days that are shorter and the nights are longer and darker.
The Importance of Practicing Driving At Night
There are ways that you can get better at night driving, and this time of year you may want to proactively take some of these steps. Drivingtests.com outlines ways to take proactive steps to be ready to drive. While this list was built for training new drivers, it is certainly something that all drivers can use to their advantage. Their tips include making sure that you know where the lights are on your car and how to toggle to high beams, paying special attention to road signs and markers, scanning ahead of you for animals on the road, and driving at slower speeds at night. They also suggest making sure that you keep driving distractions to a minimum and recognize when you are tired. These are all things that you can practice during daylight hours.