Driving in the Dark for the First Time

Don L. Gates

Driving at nightBefore driving in the dark there are a few things you need to take care of. Maintaining all lights in good working order is a basic legal requirement, but when was the last time you checked yours?  How often do we see cars on the roads with only one brake light working, or even one headlight?

All lights should be checked on a regular basis, and it really is easy. All you have to do is turn the ignition on; and then check each light in turn by operating the switch or brake pedal and looking for reflections in adjacent vehicles or other reflective surfaces around you. A quick check like this is fine, but if you’re not sure whether a light is working, get out of the car and have a look, or get someone to help you with the check.

If you discover a light isn’t working, fix the problem before you set off. A well prepared driver should always carry a spare set of bulbs. Most are simple to change, though if you encounter problems, trained people at motoring accessory shops will usually fit it for you for a small fee. They also carry bulb packs specifically for each make and model of car; make sure you have one, and if you have to use a spare, don’t forget to replace it!

It’s also advisable to carry a torch at night, especially if you intend to drive where there’s no street lighting.

Window Glass

Another sensible precaution before setting out at night is to make sure that your windows are clean. This is not only common sense, but required by law. Dirty windows can directly restrict vision in the best of conditions, but when the headlights from other vehicles are scattered across the glass by the particles of dirt, it can produce a dazzling and impenetrable glare. Badly scratched or cracked windscreens can also have this effect.

Many people make the mistake of wiping a steamed up windscreen with the back of their hand; the natural oils in your skin will actually leave smears across the glass and this again will produce glare when hit by headlights and can be difficult to remove.  Always keep a proper glass cloth or wash leather in your car and use this instead.

You shouldn’t use any kind of tinted glasses at night, including so called ‘night driving glasses‘. These may reduce the glare from headlights, but also reduce the level of most other forms of light reaching your eyes; you may as well wear sunglasses!

For more information read the Glovebox Guide to Driving at Night & in Bad Weather >>>

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