Guide to Driving at Night: 8 Tips to Improve Safety

14th Sep 2022

By Edward Cook

Helpful tips for driving at night

Whilst many motorists around the UK are familiar with nighttime driving, a substantial amount of accidents or road traffic collisions (RTCs) still occur during the darker hours. It's always beneficial to know how to change your driving style to reduce the risks while out on the road.

From pre-drive checks, to extra bits of equipment, we've collated our top tips for driving at night to help you feel confident behind the wheel when driving at night.

  1. Preparing your vehicle
  2. Gather essential equipment
  3. Prepare yourself
  4. Drive to the road's conditions
  5. Use your lights correctly
  6. Don't drink and drive
  7. Take regular breaks
  8. Choose a suitable insurance policy

We've also answered some of the most frequently asked questions related to driving at night.

Preparing your vehicle for nighttime driving

Blue Renault Zoe at Night

It's critical for you to give your car a check before driving at night, as this can make a significant difference, not only for you, but other motorists as well.

The first thing to do would be to check your lights, which includes your headlights, high-beams, brake lights and indicators. If you aren't confident doing this yourself, we offer a complimentary vehicle health check service to ensure your car is ready for the road.

The car being clean is also surprisingly helpful when driving at night, as it means your headlights can operate at their optimal level without dirt limiting their projection. With other motorists also driving with their headlights on, the muck that may be on your windscreen or windows can cause glares and inconsistent light, which may be distracting.

Your dashboard and driver display lights may be too bright for driving at night as well, they may be worth adjusting if they're catching your eye.

Gather essential equipment for driving at night

Vehicle Hazard Warning Triangle

So your vehicle is all prepped and ready, but before you get behind the wheel it's important to ensure you've got some other bits of handy equipment in the case of an emergency. First of all, having your mobile phone charged so you can call someone if you breakdown is important, as no one wants to be stranded in the middle of the night with no way home.

Emergency breakdown kits can also come in handy in the case of a breakdown at night. They often include equipment that's mandatory when driving in Europe, such as hazard warning triangles and a high-vis vest, so you can notify other road users of your situation.

It's also a good idea to carry an extra bit of warm clothing, as it can be very cold at night outside of the summer months. Waiting for a recovery team to come and rescue you when you've forgotten a coat on a cold, dark evening is never a pleasant experience.

Prepare yourself to drive in the dark

Optician Eye Check

When the light falls, visibility does too. For this reason, it's recommended for you to get regular check-ups for your eyes when driving at night. Your eyes are one of your best friends when it comes to driving, as they allow you to spot hazards in the road, especially when it's dark.

You may be asking: what type of glasses should or shouldn't be worn when driving at night? Well, handy glare-free glasses are now available, which can help when it gets dark. You should never wear dark or tinted glasses when driving during the night, as these can significantly hamper visibility.

Another factor that can make all the difference is your comfort. So before you set off, ensure your seat is set up correctly, you're happy with the heating controls, and there's no loose items within the cabin. This will save you from having to make adjustments that are often more difficult in the dark.

Drive to the road's conditions

Traffic at Night

Now everything is prepared, it's time to hit the road. When driving at night, conditions can often be trickier than during the day, which means, unfortunately, more RTCs can occur. Because of this, traffic build up is more likely and can often delay you from getting to your destination. It's always worth giving yourself an extra bit of time just in case you need to deviate from your original route due to traffic.

Another element of driving late at night is that the roads are often less busy, which can be an invitation to drive more spiritedly. We'd highly recommend doing the opposite.

There's a range of unexpected hazards that can be seen during the night. For example, nocturnal animals, such as badgers, cross roads during the night and can be easily spooked by your headlights. Driving to the road's conditions gives you extra time to spot any animals (or other hazards), so they can cross safely, allowing you both to go on your merry way.

Use your lights correctly

Ford LED Headlights

Nowadays, many new and used cars come with automatic headlights that can detect how bright it is outside and set the lights accordingly. Whilst this feature is very useful, it can sometimes lead motorists to forget to even check their lights are on.

You should never turn your lights off when driving during the night, even when on a well-lit motorway. Not only is it unsafe, but it is also illegal to drive without lights in the dark.

Your high-beams allow you to see further and more clearly when driving down dark roads and country lanes. But these can also be of detriment to other road users when not used correctly. When a vehicle is coming from the opposite direction, or you're closely following a car ahead, ensure the regular beam is used as this reduces the risk of dazzling other road users. The same goes for your fog lights, which should only be used when visibility is below 100 metres.

Don't drink and drive

Car Keys and Alcohol

Now, this may seem like common sense to many, but a significant amount of RTCs and road-related deaths are caused by people driving under the influence of alcohol.

Although you may think it's safe to drive home after a couple of pints at your local, it's never worth risking the lives of yourself and other road users, as even the smallest amount of alcohol can have an effect on your ability to safely drive a motor vehicle.

The easiest and safest way to avoid this is by using public transport, ordering a taxi, or getting a lift from a friend. If going with the latter, ensure your friend doesn't drink and drive either. Many groups of friends take it in turns to be the nominated sober driver for a night, ensuring everyone can enjoy themselves and get home safely.

Take regular breaks

Service Station Sign

Unlike our friendly nocturnal friends such as hedgehogs and badgers, most people are hard-wired to work during the day and sleep during the night. This means, naturally, people become tired when the sun goes down, often losing concentration in the later hours of the day.

Tiredness is another common cause of RTCs and is something that should be taken seriously, even if you're in a rush to get to your destination. Regular breaks can refresh the mind and allow you to concentrate on the road. As a general rule, it's best to take a 15-minute break for every two hours of driving. But there's no shame in having more breaks if required.

All British motorway service stations are open 24 hours a day, allowing you to grab a coffee or a bottle of water during your break. A bit of fresh air can also help, so taking a short walk is beneficial.

Choose a suitable insurance policy

Red Nissan Micra at Night

For young drivers, choosing an insurance policy that comes with a telematics system (otherwise known as a black box) is a great way of reducing costs when getting insured. However, there are a few terms that you'll need to be aware of before driving late at night.

Most importantly, some insurers set a curfew on when you can drive your vehicle, which is often between the hours of 10pm and 7am. If you drive the vehicle during these hours, then your black box 'score' may be affected, which can impact the renewal price when your insurance policy is over. Contact your insurer to clarify the terms of your insurance before driving during the night.

Frequently Asked Questions

London Night

There are plenty of questions related to driving at night, and we've answered some of the most common to help.

You're driving on a motorway at night, when may you switch off your headlights?

When driving on the motorway at night, you should always use your headlights, regardless of how well lit the road is. The only time you should switch off your headlights is if you break down, but ensure your hazard and sidelights are left on, as these make it easier for other motorists to see you.

Which type of glasses should not be worn when driving at night?

There are plenty of glasses out there that may claim to be helpful when driving in the dark, but sometimes these claims are false. Glasses that are polarized or darkened may seem like a good idea to negate the effects of glare from the street lights and other motorists, but these can actually be detrimental to overall visibility.

There are a variety of glasses that have been specifically designed for driving at night, but make sure to see an optician beforehand, as they'll help you find a pair that's the perfect fit.

Find your next vehicle with Evans Halshaw

Driving at night can sometimes be a daunting task, but preparing yourself and your vehicle for the different scenarios you may encounter during the night makes it much less of a challenge and a comfortable experience.

Our range of new and used vehicles has plenty of cars that come with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), making nighttime drives that bit easier. This technology can include autonomous emergency braking, driver drowsiness monitors and high-beam assist.

Our blog section also has a number of other useful driving and buying guides to help you when it comes to motoring.