Road Trips & Night Driving Safety Tips
When vacation traveling comes to mind, some families prefer to travel at night. There may be less traffic, families may have young children, or a time element could be involved. But night driving can also present its challenges for those behind the wheel.
There’s no denying that late-night driving can be nerve-racking—especially during road trips. And for good reason—because of factors like low visibility and fatigue, driving in the dark can be more dangerous than driving when the sun is out. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that traffic deaths are three times greater at night compared to the day.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 60. The ability to drive represents a sense of freedom for adults of all ages. But, as we get older, changes to the body and mind can make driving increasingly difficult. Night vision worsens with age due to a number of factors: pupil size, retinal changes, and cataracts.
According to the American Optometric Association, “When driving, you may notice additional glare from headlights at night or sun reflecting off windshields or pavement during the day. Changes in your lenses in your eyes cause light entering the eye to be scattered rather than focused precisely on the retina. This creates more glare.”
Pupils shrink and don’t dilate as much in the dark as we age, reducing the amount of light entering the eye. Smaller pupils limit the amount of light that reaches the back of the eye called the retina. Because the retina of an 80-year-old receives far less light than the retina of a 20-year-old, it can seem like you are wearing dark sunglasses at night.
NIGHT DRIVING SAFETY TIPS:
- Start your trip with a vehicle maintenance checkup.
- Keep windshields clean inside and out. Cracked or chipped windshields can have the same effect, so it’s best to get them fixed before a trip.
- Damaged headlights shine less on the road ahead so have them replaced.
- Help drivers see you in twilight by turning your headlights on before sunset and keeping them on for an hour after sunrise.
- Use high beams in isolated areas and switch to low beams when driving behind someone or in areas of fog, rain, or snow.
- Allow more time for your own journey, so you’re not driving under pressure.
- Avoid looking directly at approaching vehicles at night, even when their lights are dimmed.
- Watch for signs of fatigue. If you experience eye droop or fatigue, find a place to pull over and rest or switch drivers.
- Plan for emergencies with jumper cables, flares, blankets, first aid kit, and flashlights. You never know when things will pop up.
- Have regular eye exams to check for such things as cataracts that can cause nighttime vision loss.
Avoid driving along at 50 mph, dropping to 40 mph when there’s oncoming traffic and then speeding up again. It makes it very confusing for drivers traveling behind you. It’s better to aim for a speed you can maintain such as 45mph and sticking to it, even if there are times you could go faster.
Vacations are to be enjoyable. Be proactive in taking care of your health and safety while driving. If a driving situation makes you uncomfortable, be honest with yourself and don’t put yourself and others at risk. As we age, many older drivers voluntarily begin to make changes in their driving practices. If fast-moving traffic bothers you, consider staying off freeways, highways, and find street routes instead. You may also decide to avoid driving in bad weather (rain, thunderstorms, snow, hail, ice). If you are going to a place that is unfamiliar to you, it is a good idea to plan your route before you leave so that you feel more confident and avoid getting lost.
Should you have concerns regarding your vision and driving, please call our office at 724-443-6767 or 724-226-0444 to schedule an appointment.
About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit bisselleyecare.com or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.