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Five Tips for Staying Safe as We Return to Driving in the Dark

The nights are drawing in and there is a chill in the air each time you leave the house, which can only mean that autumn is settling in. 

Unfortunately for commuters, this means driving to and from work in the dark and often in miserable weather. Not only is the drive more treacherous, tiring and unenjoyable, there are additional vehicles on the road and we must be extra careful in dark, icy and wet conditions. Thankfully, there are some ways we can improve the drive in the dark and wet to make sure we stay safe on the roads.

1. Ensuring your car is in tip-top shape

One of the best ways we can protect ourselves in difficult driving conditions is to ensure that our cars are in optimal working condition. That means ensuring it has had a recent service and MOT, or checking that it is fit for purpose by inspecting our tyre tread, brakes and lights.

Regular servicing is important to keep your car in peak condition, not only in terms of performance but also to maintain safety standards. We need our lights to be fully working for better visibility and our brakes checked to ensure we can stop hastily if a pedestrian or other vehicles seem to come from nowhere. Regularly topping up your washer fluid and replacing wiper blades also means you won’t get caught out by the darkness and cold temperature, leaving you with a windscreen that acts like a curtain of condensation.

2. Preparing to drive in the dark

As we balance working from home and the office there are few ways that commuting in the dark can be made easier, but the most important thing is that you are prepared. It’s essential that you keep your windows clean, inside and out. Smears and smudges on the inside can make visibility from your windscreen or windows almost impossible when combined with condensation. Blasting your heaters at your windows when it’s cold can cause a build-up of dirt, which is distracting when driving so giving them a quick clean once a week makes all the difference. 

Tips for driving in the dark:

  • Keep your windows clean
  • Don’t get blinded by staring into oncoming vehicles’ lights
  • Use the right lights (not fog lights)
  • Get your eyes tested
  • Rest if tired

3. Driving in the rain

Some might say the downside of living in the UK is the amount of rain we get, and while the South East is often blessed with great weather, come autumn there is no escaping the dampness. Sadly, wet roads are accident magnets, with 16 serious injuries per rainy day on UK roads. This just shows why we must take extra care when driving while the heavens have opened and darkness has descended.

Avoiding journeys in the rain isn’t always possible, so ensure that your car is filled with fuel or fully charged to ensure that you are covered for the inevitable traffic jam. The extra energy required for heating and air conditioning to demist can quickly drain your reserves, so ensuring you are stocked up helps get you through.

4. Dealing with risky weather 

To improve visibility, ensure you aren’t following the vehicle in front too closely to avoid being blinded by the spray coming from it. Stopping distances are doubled in the rain, sleet and snow so instead of a two-second gap, leave four seconds. 

Where possible, avoid puddles but in the dark they aren’t easy to spot. If you find yourself aquaplaning, remove your foot from the accelerator, rather than hitting the brakes. This allows you to regain control without skidding or spinning. 

5. Looking out for others

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in your own little bubble as you plod along through dark or wet roads at a snail’s pace in traffic. We can find ourselves only focusing on the bumper of the car in front, leaving us less aware of anything else going on. This puts others in danger. Children, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are more vulnerable in the dark because of poor visibility.

Pedestrians caught up in road traffic accidents are often much more seriously injured than those behind the wheel of any vehicles involved, and we must remain vigilant in looking for them. Check your speed when driving around schools or busy areas, especially as many people don’t wear reflective clothing when it gets dark.

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