Our long time guest blogger and car enthusiast Shrinidhi Hande shares some tips on driving at night. The article below lists some quick and easy safety measures to make sure your drive is safe. Check out Shrinidhi’s blog at www.enidhi.net.
For most of us weekend travelers, night driving is often an unavoidable evil. With only Saturday and Sunday available, we can’t afford to lose half that time just traveling to and from the destination. This often means we might start our trip on a Friday night to reach the destination Saturday morning. Even otherwise, night driving is an integral part of driving so it is important to be safe.
This post shares some of my observations & tips which can make your next night drive safer.
1. Have a pilot vehicle, if possible.
Where possible, tail a vehicle. That is, while driving on a highway in the night, if you find another vehicle going in same direction with a speed similar to yours, tailing it with some safe distance is a lot safer. Any obstacles such as speed breakers, turns, oncoming traffic etc will first be intercepted by that vehicle and by observing the tail lamp, you will get good idea of what’s ahead. Without a pilot, you need to be more careful about speed breakers, pot holes and other unexpected obstacles that may await you on the road.
2. Study your route.
It is easier to miss a turn and other landmarks in the night. A bit of research about road conditions, key turning points etc will make driving less stressful. Where you have an option, select a road that has good median or divider, as medians/dividers or trees between can absorb part of the high beam from vehicle coming in opposite direction and make your drive safer.
3. Have a navigator.
Passengers tend to doze off leaving the entire responsibility of driving & navigating on one person- that is you. It helps a lot if you can have one more person awake- to give you company, to ensure that you don’t sleep, help identify when to turn next and also help spot obstacles like speed breakers.
4. Lower the high beam even if other driver doesn’t.
Do not get into an ego issue on the highway, expecting that other driver should change to low beam first. Change to low beam irrespective of what the other person does. Because one blind driver is better than both drivers getting blind.
5. Memorize the road ahead.
If you’re blinded by a high beam you will need to recreate the road ahead in your mind to be able to continue driving ahead. If you’re not comfortable doing this, slow down.
6. Listen to your body.
Your body will give clues that it needs rest. Reduced concentration levels, eyes struggling to stay open, paining legs etc. Listen to these signals and don’t push yourself. Night driving is NOT a way to test your endurance levels. Swap drivers or pull over to take a nap.
7. Avoid cruise control and automatic transmission at night.
These two, though convenient, tend to make the driver lazier. Do not use them in the night. With no work to your hands and legs, it is much easier to fall asleep behind the wheel. Please drive manually as much as possible in the night.
8. Expect obstacles.
Most of non motorized vehicles will not have any tail lights or reflectors. Some of them are fairly huge (like bullock carts) to block half the road and leave no room for maneuver. Sometimes you won’t spot them till you’re too close. Be prepared for such eventualities.
Similarly it is required to keep higher margin while overtaking or giving way to other vehicles. The other driver might be sleepy or not at his attentive best, so there could be errors.
There is every possibility that road ahead might be dug up, diverted or even non existent. Do not assume the road ahead is safe. Drive in such a manner that you can always stop within the area visible in headlight. Else you might end up in the pit like this Figo driver.
9. Strictly no drinking & driving.
This is a basic rule of driving but often ignored.
10. Drive with windows slightly rolled down.
Though not as comforting as temperature controlled interiors, letting fresh air in through the window will help you stay alert, more attentive to horns and other sounds outside. If the air turns dusty, it might hint at bad roads ahead and you better slow down.
11. Ensuring driver had enough rest.
Applies more to chauffeur driver rentals – cab drivers often work overtime during peak seasons to earn more money. This means less rest and more risk of accidents. If you feel your driver hasn’t had some rest (eyes are red etc), delay your departure by couple of hours- let him sleep a bit.
12. Making sense of headlights ahead.
A single light doesn’t mean it is a two wheeler. It might be a monster truck with one light not working. Four lights might be an overtaking situation. headlight pattern can also tell you if the road is turning left or right.
13. Ensuring your own vehicle is in good condition.
Needless to say, working headlamps,tail lamps, indicators area fundamental requirement before setting off on a night drive.
Have a safe trip!