We’re well and truly into winter now and that means it gets dark early. Follow these simple tips to keep you safer when driving in the dark:
- Keep your headlights clean so that you get the most light out of them
- Automatic headlights won’t always dip the lights for fog – switch to manual dipping. Remember not to use your fog lights if it’s clear as you’ll dazzle drivers following you
- Keep your windows clean, especially if you’re driving towards the setting sun
- Put anti-freeze in your washer fluid and keep it topped up as you’re more likely to go through washer fluid quickly in winter when the roads are dirty
- Clear all ice from the windows (including the side windows), and make sure you know how to set your heating to quickly demist your windscreen. Don’t pour hot water onto a frozen windscreen as it can cause it to crack; cold water is fine to melt any ice. You’ll need a decent ice scraper in the car. Or, you can cover the screen overnight, even with some paper or cardboard.
- Keep your mirrors clean
- If you use your car on gritted/salted roads, make sure to wash it
- Use full beam headlights where there are no streetlights, but not during the day; keep to low beam headlights at all times when the weather is gloomy. If you are dazzled by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, look to the left of the road and slow down; don’t close your eyes or swerve, or high-beam the other driver as you might dazzle them and cause them to have an accident. If you are dazzled by headlights of a vehicle following you, use the anti-dazzle position on your rear-view mirror and make sure you’re not holding people up unduly (i.e. make it easy for them to pass if possible).
- Be vigilant for cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians – watch for reflective jackets and tape, and reflectors
- Use reflective signs, cats eyes and road markings to help give you clues about where the road turns up ahead
- Stay warm, but don’t make yourself so warm that you become sleepy
- Take extra care when overtaking as it’s more difficult to judge an oncoming vehicle’s speed and position in the dark
- Watch out for animals on the roads
- Carry equipment in your car for the conditions that you expect, for example do you need snow chains? It is also helpful to keep a blanket and torch in your car in case you get stranded.
- Increase your following distances – wet roads (and especially icy roads) have much less friction, so it will take you longer to stop
- If the weather looks very snowy or icy, can you take another route or another mode of transport to your destination?
Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.