Road Deaths Triple When It’s Dark

by Terry Bryant

A disproportionate number of car wrecks happen at night, defined as between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. It’s a fact that the risk of being involved in a wreck (your fault or someone else’s) is three times higher at night. Road fatalities triple during the night, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are several reasons for this.

  • Of the 15,294 people killed at night, almost two-thirds (9,785, or 64%) did not use restraints
  • 8,234 (54% of the 15,294) were in crashes with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher
  • 5,715 (37%) of the total number of nighttime fatalities were in speeding-related crashes.

Several more factors contribute to higher accident vulnerability rates at nighttime. Darkness reduces many drivers’ depth perception, peripheral vision, and ability to distinguish color, and this is true especially for older drivers (over 50). All this data explodes the popular myth that driving at night is safer because there are fewer vehicles and pedestrians on the road.

And though headlight technology has significantly improved over the past 15 years or so, low beams typically illuminate only 160 to 250 feet in front of your vehicle. High beams are effective for 350 to 500 feet ahead, which is pretty much the limit of your safe stopping distance if you’re driving the common legal highway/freeway limit of 70 mph. When driving at 60 mph, it takes more than 200 feet to stop, for a driver who is sober. When adding all of the above-mentioned factors which can erode reaction times, there’s very little margin for error.

The Factors Which Affect Nighttime Driving

Cleanliness: Those who don’t keep their windshield and headlights clean have difficulty attaining optimal sight. Dirty windshields mute nighttime visual acuity worse than in the daytime.  And dingy headlights reduce candlepower. So clean your windshield and headlights every time you fill up. Check your headlights regularly to make certain they are 100% effective.  Over time, bulbs can degrade. And if you have old, yellowed non-halogen plastic lenses on your vehicle, it’s time to get a lens repair wipe kit to restore clarity or replace the unit altogether (or the bulb, if that’s possible with your vehicle).

Healthy eyes are the window to safe nighttime driving: At the end of a long day, many of us experience some level of eye fatigue. To reduce these effects on nighttime driving, ophthalmologists suggest you keep your eyes moving throughout your entire field of vision, instead of focusing on one area. The American Optometric Association also says that as a general rule to protect your sight, you should have your eyes checked every three years if you’re under 40, then every two years through age 60, and annually after that.

Prescription lenses with anti-reflective coating stop additional, unnecessary light from reflecting inside your lenses while at the same time allowing more light to pass through to deliver a genuine view of the road (and the vehicles on it) ahead of you.

It’s also a good idea to dim your instrument panel and all interior lights and also to have your headlights checked and adjusted, if necessary, to factory specifications. The former reduces internal glare which can affect your eyesight and the latter prevents you from inadvertently blinding oncoming vehicles.

If you’ve been involved in a nighttime vehicle accident while driving, cycling, or walking, the Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law team can answer your legal questions during a free case evaluation. Reach out to us anytime, day or night, at 713-973-8888 or through our site.