Cars driving on motorway at night

5 safety-critical tips for driving in the dark

28th Nov, 2023

The clocks have already been back for some time now, so if you’ve been spending a lot of time out on the roads already, you’ve probably had a fair bit of practice at driving in the dark. Even for the most experienced of us though, it can still be a quite daunting experience, especially on particularly busy highways – and it can be all too easy to end up having an accident that causes you to realise: I need to scrap my car. 

To help you stave off a situation like that, here are our four top tips for driving in the dark. Stay safe out there!

Check your lights

This is the most obvious one, as strong, functioning lights can make all the difference to your visibility on the roads, and how well you’re able to spot (and react to) static or moving obstacles. Crucially, they can also make all the difference to other road users seeing you. Dim or non-functioning rear lights, for example, can put you in danger of being rear-ended by other motorists whose lights won’t pick you out until way too late. A single non-functioning light can also open up the possibility of someone mistaking your car as a motorcycle, and treating you accordingly – which again, can lead to accidents. Don’t risk it – get your lights checked!

Don’t drive tired

Statistically, quite a lot of us underestimate exactly how dangerous driving tired can be. The effects of being drunk and overly tired are very similar too – both conditions can slow reaction times, and affect both alertness and decision-making. 

Police statistics show that fatigue contributes to about 4% of fatal road crashes and 2% of all collisions. There were almost 1700 fatal collisions in 2022 alone, which means that 68 people died because someone was tired. Now, 68 deaths is a horrifying amount whatever the situation, but in the cold world of statistics, it may seem like a relatively small number.

To give further context, those same police statistics show that fatigue contributes to 2% of all road crashes in Britain. There are 126,250 road accidents in the UK each year, so that works out to about 346 each day. Tiredness is estimated to be involved in about 5050 of those total crashes, which works out to about 13 crashes, every single day. 

It’s also worth noting that these estimates are probably massive underestimations, partially because driving tired is not a specific crime in itself, police can’t test for tiredness (although you can be charged for driving without due care and attention). 

The charity Brake estimates that between 10% and 20% of all road crashes are fatigue-related. Many of these tend to be on the motorways and often happen at high speed, mostly because tired drivers don’t react fast enough on the brakes. 

All this can be summed up in three simple words: get enough sleep!

Don’t stare at oncoming vehicles

Another peril of driving on the motorway is that your mind can start to wander, and when that happens, it can sometimes be all too easy to find yourself staring into the headlights of oncoming vehicles. That can be an excellent way to get yourself accidentally dazzled (especially if they’ve got their high beams on), and that can then affect your own visibility and reaction times. 

Occasionally, this might be unavoidable – you may need to look at an oncoming car to work out what it’s doing for example, or someone might come up behind you with their high beams on. But if that’s ever happened to you, you’ll already know how much it can affect your vision – and how easy it can be to crash as a result. 

Keep your windows clean

This is one that lots of people tend to underestimate, but it’s just as important as keeping your lights in good condition, as we detailed above. After all, lights in peerless condition do you no good at all if you can’t properly see out of the windows. 

It also compounds issues around headlight beams from oncoming cars – they can cause what’s called “incident light beam diffusion”. Essentially, when light (natural or otherwise) hits dirt, oil, soap residue, or general debris on your windscreen, it causes the light to refract, causes glare and makes your windscreen harder to see out of. Ultimately, that means that a car passing in front of you at quite some distance could end up affecting your immediate visibility, which can boost your chances of having a crash – especially on high speeds on the motorway. It might seem a bit of a pain, but it’s at least one good reason why you should always keep your washer fluid topped up, and a spare rag handy. 

Watch out for vulnerable road users

Vulnerable road users always need to be a priority at any time of year, but they’re notoriously more difficult to see in winter, especially after dark. If you’re lucky (and they’re sensible), cyclists will be wearing proper gear and high-vis clothing, but let’s be honest, that’s not always the case. Pedestrians often won’t be wearing any of that gear whatever the weather, so you’ll need to be particularly careful in built-up urban areas, as well as around facilities like schools.

Country roads, meanwhile, have their own dangers – you’ll need to watch out for animals suddenly darting out in front of you, especially in areas where nocturnal creatures are active. If in doubt, always take a few digits off your top speed. The person behind you might not always be terribly happy about it, but your right to safety trumps their right to convenience. You’ll never want to end up in a collision that causes you to decide – I need to scrap my car.

Ideally, you’ll be able to run it to the end of its natural lifespan instead. 

Whatever the circumstances though, when your old motor reaches the end of its life, you can always count on us to help here at Scrap Car Network. With more than 40 years of experience behind us, we’ve refined our process to make sure it’s never been easier to scrap your car. All you need to do is enter your car reg and postcode into the fields on our site, and we’ll have your scrap car quote to you in seconds. So… curious to find out how much your car is worth?

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