Learn Why Driving At Night Is So Dangerous
After Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, Nov. 6, many New Yorkers will find themselves spending more time driving in the dark. As nighttime driving increases, we brace for an increase in car, truck, and motorcycle accidents in Queens, NY. Driving at night is more dangerous than daytime driving for several reasons.
Darkness creates less time to react to a hazard in the road ahead, especially when driving at higher speeds, the National Safety Council (NSC) explains. Headlights provide only about 250 feet worth of illumination (500 with high beams), which is far less than what drivers can see in clear daylight. Drivers at night have less time to recognize dangerous situations and react to avoid an accident.
Headlights obviously reduce nighttime crashes, but according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicle testing shows that visibility provided by headlights varies widely. Only about 1 in 3 headlight systems the IIHS tested on model year 2022 vehicles earned a good rating. About 40 percent of the systems tested were rated marginal or poor because of inadequate visibility, excessive glare from low beams for oncoming drivers, or both.
Common Causes of Nighttime Car Accidents
While we do only about a quarter of our driving at night, half of traffic deaths happen at night, the NSC says.
Night driving is dangerous because of:
- Compromised vision. Our eyes take several hours to fully adapt to darkness and reach optimal sensitivity to low light conditions. But our vision makes large adjustments quickly, which convinces us that our vision is no longer compromised. Nighttime glare from oncoming headlights and other light sources reduces the distance that drivers can see and increases drivers’ reaction times until their vision recovers.
- Fatigue. Our natural circadian rhythms make our bodies sleepy at night and in darkness. A National Sleep Foundation says any driver can become fatigued, but young people are at the highest risk for drowsy driving — especially males under the age of 26. It says 55 percent of drowsy driving crashes involve drivers under 25 years old.
- Rush hour traffic. During fall, the evening commute takes place just as it begins to get dark and the sun is positioned in the sky to cause maximum glare. During winter, bumper-to-bumper rush-hour traffic takes place in darkness. In addition to having a reduced field of vision, drivers in the evening rush hour are fatigued. Rush-hour traffic congestion makes rear-end accidents and sideswipes more likely.
- Shift work. Late-night traffic can be dangerous too. Car and Driver magazine recently quoted a Cleveland Clinic study that says shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) commonly affects people who work through the night – the graveyard shift – instead of at a traditional nine-to-five job. It says about 20 percent of the full-time workforce in the U.S. does some sort of shift work. Among them, 10 to 40 percent may suffer from sleep disorders. Researchers at the University of Missouri reported that people with shift work sleep disorder are 300 percent more likely to be in a crash or a near crash.
- Speeding. As the hour grows later and traffic clears, drivers tend to increase their speed and commit other acts of aggressive driving. Speeding, in particular, gives drivers less opportunity to react in dangerous situations and decreases the effectiveness of braking or swerving to avoid a collision.
- Alcohol and drug impairment. Impaired drivers are most frequently on the road after dark – particularly between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. on weekends, the NSC says. The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2020 was 3.1 times higher at night than during the day, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says. While drunk driving has declined by about one-third since 2007, the number of drivers under the influence of drugs – particularly THC, the active ingredient in marijuana – has increased, the NSC says.
Night Driving Safety Tips
If you have been injured in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident in New York City’s Queens borough, The Tadchiev Law Firm, P.C. can help you file a claim to seek compensation for your losses. New Yorkers typically must turn first to their Personal Injury Protection no-fault insurance for coverage of injuries. It pays regardless of who caused the accident.
The AAA travel club and the NSC offer these nighttime driving tips:
- Don’t follow too closely. To give yourself plenty of stopping time, slow down and increase the typical distance between your vehicle and the car you are following.
- In rush hour traffic, stay in your lane and beware of drivers who dart from lane to lane. Even though the route may be familiar, don’t go on autopilot. Stay alert.
- Minimize distractions, such as talking on the phone or with passengers.
- Don’t look directly into oncoming headlights. As a vehicle approaches, look down toward the right side of the road and follow the lane marking to stay on course until it passes. If you wear glasses, make sure they’re anti-reflective.
- Adjust your headlights. Headlights can sometimes be uneven or pointed too low. You can adjust them yourself or take your car to a garage. If you have an older car with plastic lens covers that have yellowed, use a polish kit to remove the residue.
- Dim your dashboard lights. The glow from your car’s instrument panel and infotainment system can be distracting. It can also cause reflections on the windshield that make it tougher for your eyes to adjust to the darkness outside the car.
- Clean your windshield. Light reflected at night can reveal dirty streaks on your windshield that aren’t visible in the daylight. Wipe the inside of the glass with a microfiber cloth and glass cleaner.
- Act your age. As we get older, our field of vision shrinks. Over time, our pupils get smaller and don’t dilate as well, so our eyes at age 60 need three times as much light to see as they did at age 20. To compensate, older drivers should scan farther down the road and be certain to move their heads, not just their eyes, to make up for reduced peripheral vision.
Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers Today
If you have been injured in a car accident at night in Queens, NY, a car accident lawyer at The Tadchiev Law Firm is available to discuss your accident and legal options. We charge no fees unless we secure compensation for you. We offer a free case review to discuss any questions you may have. For your free case review, call us today or reach out online.