Top tips for driving in the dark

When the clocks go back and the nights start drawing in, it’s more likely that you’ll end up driving in the dark. Here are our top tips for staying safe after dark

Written by Verity Hogan
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Use your lights

It might sound obvious but having working lights is essential when driving in the dark. In fact, it’s illegal to hit the road if your front and rear lights aren’t working. Make sure you check your lights before setting off and get any blown bulbs replaced as soon as possible.

Don’t wait until it’s pitch black to flip the switch, you should turn on dipped headlights in low light. It’s good practice to keep them on for an hour after the sun rises and an hour before it sets. You’ll likely only need to use your full beams when driving in unlit areas – like country roads – but you should dip them immediately if you encounter another vehicle to avoid dazzling the driver.

Keep your windscreen clean

It’s not surprising that dirt, condensation, and smears can make it harder to see, especially in the dark. And smudges can be hard to spot in the daytime. Car heaters can make the situation worse too by blowing dirty air at the glass and creating a hazy film. Try to keep it as clean as possible, make sure your screen wash is topped up, and wipe down the inside with the microfibre cloth.

Watch out for pedestrians, cyclists, and animals

When the night starts drawing in and darkness falls at 4pm, it’s more likely that you’ll be sharing the roads with pedestrians and cyclists. Take extra care when driving through residential areas and near schools; it’s a good idea to keep your speed down and stay alert to potential hazards. In rural areas, you’re probably more likely to come across animals than other people. They can be hard to spot so stay alert, don’t speed, and look out for the reflection of your headlights in an animal’s eyes.

Get your eyesight checked

Driving in the dark can expose eyesight issues that are less obvious in the bright light of day. If you’re struggling to adjust to lower light, it’s time to pay a visit to the optician. If you do need glasses, your optician may recommend investing in anti-reflection coating on your lenses to help reduce glare. Even if your eyesight is 20-20, you should never wear dark glasses or tinted lenses when driving at night.

Don’t drive tired

You should never drive tired regardless of the light level, but darker mornings and evenings can make you feel even drowsier than you would otherwise. If you’re driving a long distance, make sure you schedule in plenty of rest stops along your route – and don’t be afraid to reach for a cup of coffee to give you a caffeine boost before hitting the road.

Take your time

It’s important that you adapt your driving style after dark. With reduced visibility, it can be easy to miss hazards and misjudge distances, so it’s best to slow down and keep a safe distance from other drivers. If you can, make a plan; choose a well-lit route, and if it’s an unfamiliar road, check out Google maps to check out any hidden twists and turns that could be harder to navigate in the dark.

How can you improve your driving in the dark

If you’re still learning to drive, make sure that you schedule some lessons with your instructor after dark. That way you can get used to driving and carrying out manoeuvres in all conditions.  

Already passed your test but not confident driving after dark? The Pass Plus course includes a module on night driving so you can brush up your skills with the support of an instructor by your side.

Night driving essentials

When you’re planning to hit the road after dark, especially in the winter months, it’s important that you carry a night driving kit with essentials, just in case. A torch should be top of your list – bonus points if you invest in a head torch that will keep your hands free. If you’re caught out in the cold weather, then having a warm set of clothing and a blanket can help you stay cosy while waiting for the recovery team to arrive. A hi-vis jacket can also help keep you safe by making you easier to spot in the dark, while an ice scraper and mobile charger can come in handy.

Verity Hogan

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