Practice Makes Perfect: Driving at Night

Night drivingTeens have returned to school, and Fall is right around the corner. As the days get shorter, it’s a great opportunity for new drivers to reflect on the dangers and challenges of driving at night, and practice their defensive driving techniques after dusk.

Night time driving accounts for about 25% of all driving, and there is usually significantly less traffic during these hours, but approximately 55% of all driving fatalities occur after dark. Night driving presents additional challenges due to reduced visibility, driver fatigue, and even a higher number of intoxicated drivers on the road:

  • Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day.
  • The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes was four times higher at night than during the day (NHTSA).
  • Nearly 3 out of 4 pedestrian deaths occur during the nighttime (70%), and many involve alcohol (NHTSA).

Florida officials recognize that new drivers need to practice night driving after mastering defensive driving basics. In Florida, if you hold a Learner’s License, you may only drive during daylight hours during the first three months, and until 10 p.m. thereafter, always with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old and occupies the front passenger seat. To earn your Intermediate License (operator’s license) at 16 years old, a parent or guardian must certify that you have at least 50 hours of behind the wheel driving experience, of which 10 hours must be at night. For more information on graduated driver licensing requirements in Florida, visit the Florida DHSMV website.

Now that you understand the risks, here are some safety tips for driving at night:

  • Make sure all of the lights on your car are visible and working. Check to make sure that lights are working properly; make sure they aren’t caked with mud, snow or other debris that can make you less visible to other drivers on the road.
  • Reduce your speed and following distance, just as you would in bad weather. It can be more difficult to judge distance or other vehicle speeds at night.
  • If you are drowsy, do NOT drive at night. A drowsy driver may have slower reaction times, and falling asleep at the wheel can be deadly.

For even more tips on night driving, review these safety tips from Popular Mechanics. What other tips would you give new drivers for safe night driving?

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