Winter nights are well and truly upon us and that journey home from work is now performed in the dark veil of twilight, the school run in the half-light of early morning dawn. Twilight is one of the most difficult, and therefore dangerous, times to drive as our eyes are constantly trying to keep up with the changing light and shadows. In Winter, it is almost impossible to avoid driving in twilight and the dark, however there are a few sensible steps we can take to make it easier and safer.

As the seasons change to Autumn and then winter we find ourselves more regularly faced with low winter sun, the glare often bouncing up from wet roads or reflecting in rain drops on our windscreens. Whilst these conditions are not as 'bad' as driving in very heavy rain or snow, we often take Winter sun for granted and fail to make adequate provision for the variable conditions. The figures are shocking; around 4000 road users are injured each year in collisions stemming from sun glare or 'dazzle' and these leave an average of 28 dead a year. Accidents involving head-on collisions between cars and lorries quadruple (that's four times as many!) in the twilight conditions.

So what can you do the limit or mitigate the effects of Winter Sun?

 

  1. BE AWARE! It sounds obvious, but it is absolutely worth reminding yourself that the low sun could pop out from behind the tree line, building or around a corner when driving - particularly if you are heading west of uphill! Slow down and try to anticipate the Sun.

  2. SLOW DOWN! It is easily done to try to 'drive through' sun glare - but treat it like any other visibility problem like heavy rain or fog - slow down, indicate earlier, check and double check if turning - there is no harm edging into space if visibility is poor.

  3. CLEAN WINDSCREEN! Before you set off on your Journey, ensure the interior of your windscreen is free from grease and marks (as these pick up the glare of the sun), a damp cloth with a little washing up liquid does the trick (but make sure it's all clean before heading off!)

  4. TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS! Sounds daft, but as soon as you know twilight is coming, turn (or leave) on your lights. The light from car headlamps is distinct from sunglare or reflections and  will help others to see you, helping to avoid accidents.

Darkness and Night Vision - The majority of our driving, both in the morning and the early evening, in Winter will be in darkness. Although we have no cure for  worrying about last meeting of the day, or the panic created by a lost lunchbox and missing sports socks, we can help with some advice when driving in the dark. The first thing to remember is that your primary tool as a driver - your vision - is significantly impaired, so take it slow and adjust your driving accordingly. Peripheral vision, depth perception, colour recognition, all these things are dramatically reduced at night, and only get more acute for older drivers.

  1. CHECK YOUR VEHICLE! Make sure all your lights and indicators are working, and all your vehicle’s glass is clean - this is not just a case of cleaning the windows inside and out (any smear or marks will reflect the light from other vehicles and street lights making visibility even worse at night) but also your headlamps and other glass for other lights - these must be clean to work properly.

  2. GO STEADY! Reduce speed, give yourself more breaking time, stay alert - we are often distracted when driving first thing or straight after work, but now is the time to really pay attention to the road. Bikes and Pedestrians are a lot harder to see at twilight and at night, some vehicles may be obscured when viewed from the side.

  3. KEEP STEADY! Avoid the glare of other road users full beam by watching the left side of the road and using it as a guide for steering. Flip the adjustment on your rearview mirror if the car behind is shining a high beam into your eyes.

  4. ANTIGLARE! If you wear driving glasses, or normal spectacles, speak to your optician in regard to night driving glasses; but, please note, - the old style ‘yellow coating’ glasses do NOT help at night or twilight, in fact they can contribute to even further reduced vision. Instead, ask for AR (anti-reflection) lenses which will work throughout the day and also stop glare.

To conclude, the key to driving in the twilight and dark is the same as driving normally - keep aware and keep alert - but more so! Vision will be impaired in general and unusual sun glare or headlight glare can cause temporary blind spots. Compensate by driving slower, increasing braking distances, indicating in good time and helping other road users by turning on lights and keeping them dipped when possible.

We always recommend a Winter Check on your vehicle, which along with checking oil and water levels, also includes a check on the quality, direction and beam of all your vehicle's lights. You might also be interested other winter safety features (such as reflective warning triangle in case of breakdown, or show ‘boots’ for your tyres). Contact your local dealer here to learn more!








 

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