“For many people, night driving can be stressful and even scary,” says Duane Ellis General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA).
However, the dangers of driving at night can be reduced by adopting some basic safety principles, he says. He points out that the critical challenge for drivers is to respond to the reduced visibility by being more cautious and alert.
“Our reactions depend significantly on what we are able to see, hence why driving at night is riskier than driving during the day time because our vision becomes limited,” stresses Mr. Ellis. He notes that concentration also becomes a problem, as drivers may also be fatigued after a long day at work.
“Habits such as smoking at night can interfere with one’s vision, as nicotine and carbon monoxide can worsen your ability to see at night,” he advises, adding that one can reduce the risks of driving at night by adopting and practicing good habits and exercising courtesy toward other drivers and road users.
“Some of the safety habits are pretty simple,” he says. The first rule is to, “keep your car in shape and always be prepared for night driving by ensuring your headlights, tail lights, signal lights are functional and your mirrors and windows are kept clean.”
Mr. Ellis says drivers should turn their headlamps on at dusk to make their vehicles visible to other oncoming automobiles. He also reminds drivers that the law requires them to dim their headlamps in well lit areas and also when approaching oncoming vehicles.
“This is a very good driving habit, which demonstrates your care for other motorists.”
Mr. Ellis says if there is no response from an oncoming driver when you dim your headlights, one should “reduce speed and move to the extreme left to avoid the glare of the light from the vehicle.” He says a good practice is to use the broken or unbroken white line and the curb of the road to determine and maintain a correct position so that your vehicle will be able to pass the oncoming automobile safely.
Overtaking carefully is even more important at night than during daytime, Mr. Ellis cautions. He says drivers must ensure that they overtake only when necessary and with due care.
“You should first reduce your speed while driving at night and increase your following distances so that you can maintain control of the vehicle,” the JAA General Manager maintained. “But if you must overtake, signal with your headlamps and use your indicator before accelerating smoothly.”
Similarly, Mr. Ellis emphasises that, “As in overtaking, parking on the road at night must be done with care and caution.” And, drivers must ensure that their vehicles are properly pulled off the road; and that park lights are working, as well as hazard lights where, necessary. He adds that drivers should always try to park in illuminated areas.
“Take care that your vehicle is properly stocked with the necessary tools and spares in case of emergency or breakdown,” he continues.
“Having a number you can call in times of emergencies is also useful,” he says, noting that, “even if one does not have the skills to attend to an automobile in trouble, having the tools may assist a mechanic or emergency response unit to provide better assistance.”