By Lauren Ferrone
Published: Saturday, June 18, 2022
Updated: June 20, 2022 at 7:00 am
Driving at night can be daunting. As one of the dangerous times to drive, it requires extra concentration, which becomes troublesome if you’re tired or having a hard time seeing.
According to the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, P-plate drivers aged 16 to 17 are up to seven times more likely to crash at night than during the day.
However, hitting the road when the sun goes down can be risky even for the most experienced drivers. Data obtained by RAA found more than one in three fatal crashes on South Australian roads between 2016 and 2020 occurred at night.
The data showed hitting fixed objects, such as trees and Stobie poles, was the most common incident, accounting for 26% of casualty crashes at night, compared with 12% during the day.
|Crash type||Total||Percentage of night casualty crashes|
|Hit fixed object||1340||26%|
*A crash where vehicles collide at (approx.) right angles (i.e. pulling out in front of another car, car running a red light etc.)
**A collision between a vehicle turning right across a stream of traffic travelling in the opposite direction and a vehicle in that stream of traffic.
Single vehicle run-off road crashes (SVROR) made up 42% of casualty crashes, compared to 24% during daylight. SVROR crashes include hitting fixed objects, roll overs, running off the road and hitting parked cars. Most of these crashes often have similar contributing factors, such as speeding or inattention.
When it comes to night driving, location also makes a difference. SVROR crashes made up 69% of night casualty crashes on rural and remote roads, compared with 53% of daylight crashes in these areas.
RAA Senior Manager of Safety and Infrastructure, Charles Mountain, says while drivers must be confident and concentrate while driving at any time of day, there are a few extra factors that must be considered when driving in the dark.
“Changing light conditions can cause impairment of vision and depth perception, so it’s important to be aware of this and drive to the conditions at all times,” Mr Mountain says.
“This means slow down if you’re having trouble seeing the road. If your eyes are struggling to adjust to bright lights, pull over if it’s safe to do so and rest before returning to the road.”
Dos and don’ts of driving in the dark
Do: Keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists, as they can be harder to see at night.
Don’t: Assume pedestrians will stick to the footpath and cyclists to bicycle lanes, as they can suddenly dart onto the road.
Do: Keep your headlights and windscreen and mirrors clean.
Don’t: Drive if any of your lights aren’t working – that includes your number plate light. This tiny light needs to be strong enough so the characters on your number plate can be read 20m from the rear of your vehicle at night. Read more about the penalty you face if it’s not illuminated.
Do: If you spot a kangaroo or other wildlife on the road, slow down if it’s safe to do so.
Don’t: Swerve suddenly to avoid a collision with an animal, as this could lead to a more severe crash.
Do: Plan your route if you’re travelling on unfamiliar roads, so you’re aware of any turn-offs, steep descents or sharp corners. If it’s safe, pull over to check directions.
Don’t: Look at your phone too often for directions even if it’s legally affixed to an area of the dash or front windscreen, as the glare from the bright screen can be distracting. If possible, use voice-activated GPS so you can focus on the road while you listen for directions.
Do: Use high beams when your visibility of the road is restricted but switch them off when behind another vehicle or when there is oncoming traffic. Fog lights can only be used in fog or other hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility.
Don’t: Look directly into oncoming headlights – you may be dazzled.
Do: Focus on the left-hand side of the road and stick as far left as possible if you’re having trouble seeing line markings. Most road signs and markings in Australia use reflective sheeting, paints or glass beads to ensure they’re more visible at night and during bad weather. Poorly maintained line markings should be reported to the road owner, which is usually the Department for Infrastructure and Transport for main roads or the council for local roads. If you’re not sure, you can also let us know through RAA’s Report A Road program.
Don’t: Veer towards the middle of the road.
Do: Slow down and allow extra following distance of four between you and the vehicle ahead when visibility is poor. When driving on roads where there are no streetlights, make sure you can stop safely within the distance of the road ahead that is illuminated by your headlights or, if necessary, slow down.
Don’t: Speed or tailgate under any circumstance.
Do: Dim the brightness of your interior displays, such as speedo and radio. The glow from a bright dashboard can detract from your eyes’ ability to see outside of the vehicle at night. Many vehicles do this automatically, and most vehicles allow you to also manually adjust the settings, so refer to your driver’s manual.
Don’t: Switch the interior lights on when you’re driving, as the light can create reflections on the inside of the windscreen, making it harder to see out.
Do: Pull over if you’re drowsy. The only way to fully recover from fatigue is to get a good night’s sleep.
Don’t: Drive if you’re tired under any circumstance.