While the rules of the road haven’t changed and, in all likelihood, this won’t be your first time driving in the dark, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on some of the handy tips we’ve collated from the team at our Vasstech Northallerton garage. Hopefully, these should help with being on the road after the sun goes down, especially if you’ve had a year off from the darkened ride home.
One that goes without saying, but when driving in the dark, you’re going to need to use your headlights to keep you and other road users safe. However, while simply turning on your lights when it gets a little gloomy should keep you out of trouble, headlight etiquette can take you a long way, reducing the risk of accidents even further. Turning on your headlights an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise can help drivers see you, even if you think it might not be necessary. As we’ve said before, keeping your interior lights on isn’t illegal, but it can be distracting and may result in the police asking you to turn them off.
It’s illegal to have exterior lights that don’t work, and the reasons why couldn’t be more obvious. If you’re driving in the dark, it should be pretty clear if your lights aren’t working, but regular maintenance checks should be carried out to make sure bulbs aren’t dimming or on their way out. If you find one of the lights has blown, it’s actually illegal to drive without both headlights so you should replace the bulb as soon as you can, something our Northallerton garage can assist with if needs be.
For all this talk of making sure your lights are on and fully working, too much light can be a bad thing. If you’re driving in a rural area that has no lampposts lining the road, full beam headlights are the best option to give you a clear view of what’s ahead. If you’re approaching an oncoming vehicle, you should dip your headlights so as not to dazzle or blind them as you pass. It’s also worth keeping in mind that, when you’re sitting idle at traffic lights, applying the handbrake can help avoid the driver behind you being dazzled by your brake lights. It might sound obvious, but in nose-to-tail traffic, the little switch beneath your rear view mirror can be an eye-saver when you’re expecting to have tail lights shining through your rear windscreen for a little while.
While the approaching driver should do the same for you also, it doesn’t always happen. To avoid being blinded by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, it can help to keep an eye on the left-hand kerb, or if it’s very rural, the grass embankment or dry stone walls, and maintain a steady speed. Similarly, if you need to slow down, don’t slam your brakes, but instead, decrease your speed slowly so as not to cause the car behind to hit you.
Another essential tip that’s common sense but is frequently overlooked is keeping your windscreen clean. Dirt and dust, both inside and out, can compound glare issues and increase condensation on the inside of your windscreen. With us heading into the winter months, driving conditions in the UK will be at their worst, which makes it easier for windscreens to become dirty. A dirty windscreen can also lead to poorer vision when driving at night, so we suggest you make cleaning your window a regular habit, and keeping your windscreen wash topped up. If you find any icy blockages, remember to use winter solution to avoid them.
You might be nostalgic for the summer just gone, refusing to put away your shorts, and we at our Northallerton garage are not here to judge, but one thing you shouldn’t be wearing while driving in the dark is sunglasses. If you do need eyewear to see clearly (and even if you don’t), it’s always good to have your eyes checked regularly to make sure your prescription doesn’t need to be changed. Not only are regular eye tests essential for keeping on-top of your general eye health, but optometrists will be able to check to see if any underlying issues may affect your night vision, which could be crucial in these coming months. If you already have to wear glasses, then it’s likely that your licence will be endorsed with the code “01”. Not only is driving without your glasses illegal, but, if you get into an accident, it could invalidate your insurance, too.
Plus, during those short winter days, the sun does hang lower in the sky, which makes you more susceptible to being dazzled (especially when the road is wet). So, while you definitely shouldn’t be wearing your sunglasses at night – they could be a lifesaver during the late afternoon.
Easier said than done, but keeping an eye on the road at all times and looking for what’s up ahead can seriously help you avoid accidents and complications early on. When on rural roads, look out for animals lingering by the roadside and glimmers of light up ahead that could suggest oncoming drivers. When driving in the city there can be a lot of distractions, pedestrians and cyclists can be harder to spot in the dark if they’re wearing dark colours and even harder if they’re walking out from between parked cars. It’s also worth being more aware of an increased risk of obstacles in the road, blown in by winter and autumn storms.
We’ve previously covered winter tyres, but if you need any tips or advice regarding your car or driving in winter (or any time of year!), our Northallerton garage is always here to help. Providing MOT’s and everything from bulbs to brakes, you can contact our team with any questions or book your car into the garage.