You may have noticed that you’re driving a bit more in the dark for your morning and afternoon commutes. Fall Daylight Savings Time can bring a little extra time to sleep in, but it can also help the night (and the sun) sneak up on you during your morning and afternoon drives. Here are 7 tips to keep in mind on your winter commute, whether you’re driving off into the sunset or into the night.
Tips for driving at night and commuting in winter.
1. Keep some sunglasses handy.
Your parents may have told you not to look into the sun. However, with 7 a.m. sunrises and sunsets at 5:30 p.m., that can prove rather difficult. Your sun visors can only cover so much windshield real estate. So, if your commute takes you east in the morning and to west in the afternoon, it’ll be a pretty good idea to keep some sunglasses in your overhead or glove compartment.
Polarized sunglasses will be best since they cut down the amount of glare dispersed around your windshield. However, anything that can provide eye protection from the sun’s rays is going to be better than nothing.
2. When using your headlights – Monkey See, Monkey Do.
It’s a good rule of thumb when turning on your headlights to observe your surroundings. Do a lot of other drivers have their headlights on? If so, it’s probably a good idea to turn yours on too. Your eyes might have an easier time adjusting to darkening road conditions, but it’s important to remember that your lights are also to let other drivers see you. Plus, with newer cars having automatic headlights, the lights of other cars can be a great tell-tale signal that it’s the recommended time of day to have them on.
3. Don’t use your brights!
Your high beams may help you see a lot farther than your normal lights, but they’re blinding to a lot of the drivers around you. High-beam lights, or “brights,” are really only meant to be used when driving in rural areas and on open highways that are NOT in metro areas. In fact, the Department of Driver Services states that you should not use bright headlights when:
- You’re within 500 ft. of another vehicle.
- You’re driving on a lighted road.
- You’re driving in rain, fog, snow, or smoke.
- Your vision is reduced to less than 200 ft.
If you’re having trouble seeing the road ahead, it’s okay to wait in your car before pulling out of your parking space to let your eyes adjust. If you still have trouble seeing at night, there are certain types of glasses specifically made for night driving. You may be able to find them at your local sunglass store, on Amazon, or through your eye doctor.
4. Remember your signal lights.
When you’re in low visibility (or driving at night), it can be hard to see how another driver is maneuvering. So, make sure that your blinkers are working properly and that you use them to signal when you change lanes or when you’re making a turn. Give yourself enough time for the cars around you to make room for your car, then move your car once you have adequate space to make your lane change or turn. Also, if you see another driver with their signal on, make sure to give them enough time and room to turn or merge by gradually slowing down to a safe speed that allows them to maneuver their vehicle.
5. Follow the leader, but not too closely!
An object in motion tends to stay in motion. It’s not just a fun factoid from your high school science class, it’s also a little detail that can cause a car crash if you’re following another car too closely. When you’re traveling at high speeds, your car wants to keep moving forward, regardless of if you’re applying the brakes (which is why you may fall forward a bit when you stop at a stop light.)
Think about it – there’s a lot that goes into stopping a car, especially when you’re behind another driver. You have to allow time to register the other driver’s stop, move your foot from the gas to the brake, apply enough pressure to stop the car, and then wait for the car to actually stop. During the night or lower-lit conditions, your perception and visibility are lessened, which makes this process take even longer. Even if this interaction only takes a few seconds, not allowing enough space for all of this time to pass will usually slam you straight in the middle of an accident. (And remember, your driving record is one of the factors that affect your Atlanta insurance rates.)
So, what’s the easy fix? Give yourself a little space! You’ll have plenty of distance to maneuver safely in traffic, and the driver in front of you may actually go faster because they’re not blinded by your headlights in their rearview mirrors.
6. Keep Your Windows Squeaky Clean!
The same way that the tiny bulbs in your headlights and taillights can light up your way home is the same way that the lights of other vehicles can completely hinder your driving. Dirty, smudgy windows can help light disperse across your windshield, making it too bright to see the road ahead. Smudges can also warp the vision through your windshield, and dirt can create new blind spots altogether.
It may be tempting to skip the car wash since they’re less pollen and dust in the air, but giving your windshield a wipe-down in the winter can help a lot when you’re dealing with lower visibility (like when you’re night driving.)
7. Don’t fight the weather
With all of the snow forecasts turning into rain, it can be difficult to tell what the weather conditions will be on your drive home. However, whether you’re caught driving in the rain, sleet, ice, or snow, it’s important not to fight the weather (especially if night driving is involved.) If you don’t feel safe getting or staying on the road, trust your gut! It’s better to be a little late to your destination than to put yourself or others in danger if you have trouble seeing, maneuvering, or driving in stormy weather. Pull over to the side of the road, put your hazard lights on, and wait out the storm. (And don’t forget to get your car ready for winter before the weather gets really cold!)
Remember, it’s important to keep yourself safe behind the wheel of the car by being aware of other drivers. The thought of getting home and finally relaxing after a long day can put you in a bit of a hurry. However, if you’re driving at night, taking extra caution and being even more aware of your surroundings can be a great help in reducing accidents and getting home safely.
In a worst-case scenario, though, it’s important to have the right Atlanta car insurance for your day and night driving needs. And we can help you get great rates! Call our agents today to find out how you can save money on car insurance, or just fill out our online form to start getting affordable rates on car insurance in Atlanta.