Check your sight
As we age, our eyes simply don’t work as well as they used to in darker conditions and a 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. Older drivers may also experience problems with depth perception, decreased peripheral vision and, one of the most common problems, seeing halos around streetlights and headlights.
If that’s a persistent problem, ask your optician to check for cataracts, astigmatism or glaucoma. However, the halos may simply be due to a dirty windscreen – or even grubby glasses! So make sure both are clean before you set off.
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Coping with dazzle
If you are dazzled when driving at night, focus on the left-hand kerb instead of oncoming lights. If that doesn’t help, pull over to allow your eyes to recover. The time this takes increases from one second as a teenager to nine seconds as we reach retirement age.
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Your car lights have their limitations, too. At 60mph, your headlight’s reach is around 180ft on low beam and 350ft on full. This might sound a lot, but at 60mph it takes more than 200ft to bring your car to a complete halt. So your reactions need to be pin-sharp at night and it is advisable to drive more slowly than you would during the day.
Check your lights are working before you set off on a journey. You should also turn them on an hour before sunset and keep them shining until an hour after sunrise to help others see you in less-than-perfect lighting conditions.
If someone is overtaking you, keep your headlights on full beam until they’re alongside you. This will help them see the road ahead better.
Wildlife and domestic animals are harder to see at night. One good tip is to look for reflection from their eyes, which can be seen from quite a distance.
Beware deer in autumn
Break from braking
Keep your foot off the brake pedal at traffic lights and when stationary. This way you’ll avoid brake lights blinding the driver behind you.
If you’re tired, take a break. Drink two strong coffees and have a 15-minute nap. This short break will give the caffeine time to kick in. Factor in 15-minute breaks – sleeping or just stretching your legs – for every two hours or 100 miles of driving.
The dangers from drunk drivers and rowdy city-centre drinkers mean I avoid built-up areas at night whenever I can, even if it means a significant detour.
It’s not all bad news, though. I love driving long distances at night, with the radio turned on low, spearing through the dark with the roads all to myself. So, don’t let me put you off doing it completely. Just do it safely!