As the light dims and colours fade, things can become indistinctive and night-time driving can pose additional hazards compared to daytime driving.

You might have trouble seeing information such as road signs and hazards putting additional strain on your eyes. For that reason, it’s important that you remain extra vigilant and take extra precautions when driving a car at night.

Prepare your vehicle for driving at night

Before driving a car at night, there are some things you can do to prepare the vehicle and ensure both you and the car are safe for the journey.

Use your lights appropriately

Check all your bulbs are in the correct working order

It can be easy to forget to check your headlights and brake lights and it can be hard to notice if they are not working when you’re behind the wheel.

If you are caught driving without a headlight you are not only endangering yourself and other road users. You could also face a Fixed Penalty Notice fine of £100 and three points on your licence.

Invest in brighter bulbs

Upgrading your bulbs to a brighter set can be a good way to improve visibility when driving at night.

Whilst a legal brightness is not specified, The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 states that car lights should be either white or yellow and allow you to see up to 100 metres ahead, without dazzling other drivers. Car bulbs should also have an approval mark, also known as an E mark or British Standard mark.

Replace bulbs in pairs

Replacing your bulbs in pairs ensures consistent light quality between your headlights. Replacing the bulbs at the same time can also save you time. As bulbs tend to degrade at similar rates, you might find if one is broken, it’s likely the other will soon fail.

Use your full beam when appropriate

If you find that your dipped headlights are not providing enough light, then you may need to switch on your full-beam headlights. However, these should only be used on unlit stretches of road at night when other drivers are not present. If used incorrectly, they can dazzle other road users and pedestrians.

Use your fog lights when appropriate

Fog lights should be used when your visibility is less than 100 metres or roughly the length of a football pitch.

If visibility improves, you must turn them off to avoid endangering other drivers. It is also a legal offence to drive using your fog lights incorrectly.

Clean your windscreen, windows, mirrors and lights

Dirt and condensation will impair your ability to see clearly through your windows and windscreen. Ensure you clean these before starting your journey.

Pack the essentials

Before any car journey, it is always worth packing some essentials for you to use in the event of a breakdown or emergency.

Pre-packaged car safety kits are ideal as they contain things like a tyre inflator, warning triangle, tow rope, hi-vis vest, torch, glass hammer, and booster cables. Many of these things are a legal requirement if you are planning on driving in Europe so it is worthwhile doing your research.

It is also wise to keep a blanket or additional clothing in your car which can be useful if you do breakdown at night.

Check your tyres

The tread and pressure of your tyre are designed to provide a grip between your car and the road which is essential for safe acceleration and braking.

As a general rule of thumb, the typical lifespan of a tyre will be between three and five years and you should check your tread depth and pressure at least once every two weeks.

The minimum legal tread depth for tyres is 1.6mm, although it is recommended that you should replace your tyres when they reach a tread depth of 3mm.

Prepare yourself for driving at night

Avoid driving when tired

Research suggests that driving when tired can be as dangerous as drink-driving.

It has been estimated that between 10–20% of crashes worldwide are due to driver fatigue. Ensure you have had plenty of rest before starting your journey and if you do begin to feel tired when driving, take regular breaks.

Minimise distractions

With so much technology in the palm of your hand, there are lots of distractions in your car which can take your focus away from the road.

Before beginning your journey, ensure your mobile phone is stored away and any sat navs you intend to use are set up correctly. If you’re using your phone for navigation, ensure it is set to driving mode. Many modern cars have smartphone capability that allows you to control the phone’s functions using the car’s infotainment system which is a safer solution to using your mobile.

It’s also wise to dim any dashboard lights and turn off interior lights so you focus on the road ahead.

Do not drink and drive

Driving under the influence severely impacts your ability to judge speed and distance as well as slowing down your reaction time and reducing your ability to concentrate.

If you are going out and think you might be tempted to have a drink, you should always make alternative travel arrangements.

Be observant of hazards

With decreased light, it can be harder to spot potential hazards on the road giving you less time to react.

At night time, animals tend to be more active. If you are driving on rural roads you should be extra vigilant for any animals that might dart across the road.

Avoid staring at oncoming vehicles

When driving at night you should avoid staring at the headlights of oncoming vehicles. The glare can impair your vision, making it harder to focus on the road ahead, and impairing your ability to spot potential hazards.

Instead, you should position your vision slightly to the left and focus on the white line marking if there is one.

Get an eye test

Many drivers notice that their eyesight As light reduces at night, many drivers notice that their eyes struggle to adapt to the reduced light levels. If you notice that your vision hinders your ability to see the road ahead clearly, you should book an eye test appointment to determine if you need glasses.

If you find you do need glasses, you can opt for a specialised anti-reflection coating on your glasses that will help to reduce the glare from lights as you drive at night. It is also recommended that you continue to have your eyes tested every two years to identify any further deterioration in your vision.

Drive according to the conditions of the road

The tips we have provided in this article are designed to give you a general overview of driving at night. You should always drive according to the conditions of the road and remain extra vigilant during periods of extreme weather, particularly if ice and snow are present.

Take your time when driving at night

The best piece of advice when driving at night is to take your time. Many more accidents occur when drivers fail to react in time to hazards that are easy to avoid if driving correctly and safely.

Take the extra time to make sure your vehicle is road-safe and give yourself the extra time to react to potential hazards and other users on the road who will be experiencing the same conditions as you. This can be achieved by driving to the speed limits and slowing down where necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions