Safety Tips for Night Driving

Driving in the dark is different from driving during the daylight hours. Depth perception, color recognition, and peripheral vision can all be compromised in the dark. Add to that the glare of headlights and night driving can be unnerving enough to keep you off the road. Fortunately, there are strategies to help you stay safe and feel more confident about driving at night.

The following tips will help you improve your night vision and reach your destination safely.

man driving at night

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Prepare Your Car

Keeping your car in good shape overall, by having regular oil changes, inspections, and checking tire pressure, is important no matter what time of day you're driving. At night, it's important to keep these points in mind:

  • Turn off all interior lights and dim your dashboard. Any source of light inside the car will make it more difficult to see outside.
  • Clean the windshield, as well as all other windows, to eliminate streaks.
  • Thoroughly clean headlights, taillights, and signal lights.

Take Your Time

Allow your eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness before you start driving. It takes a few minutes for the pupils to fully dilate, allowing for maximum light to enter the eye. The more light your pupils let enter the eye, the better your vision will be.

Try Techniques for Night Driving

To feel more in control while night driving and avoid "drowsy driving," consider making the following adjustments:

  • Look to the bottom right of the road to avoid approaching headlights. (Some headlights are blindingly bright.) Also, use the night setting on your rearview mirror to deflect the glare from vehicles behind you.
  • Reduce your driving speed to give yourself longer to react if something happens on the road in front of you. Driving at a slower speed will also give you more confidence.

See Your Eye Doctor Regularly

Staying up to date on eye exams will ensure that any prescription glasses you may wear are up to date and any eye problems, such as dry eye syndrome or cataracts, are addressed.

If you wear glasses, make sure they're anti-reflective, but there's little evidence to support the use of yellow-lens glasses to reduce glare and increase visibility while driving at night.

Stay Alert and Well-Rested

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 7,000 people have been killed in drowsy driving-related crashes over the last decade. They found that most accidents occurred when our circadian rhythms naturally dip, between midnight and 6 a.m., and in the late afternoon. Doing shift work, a lack of quality sleep, long work hours, and sleep disorders are the usual culprits.

Signs that you're getting tired and may be at risk of falling asleep include:

  • Yawning or blinking frequently
  • Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven
  • Missing your exit
  • Drifting from your lane
  • Hitting a rumble strip on the side of the road

The NHTSA offers these tips for remaining alert on the road:

  • Get seven or more hours of sleep a night.
  • While driving, avoid alcohol and over-the-counter or prescription medications, which can amplify the effects of drowsy driving.
  • Drive during your regular hours, avoiding prime sleep times (midnight–6 a.m. and late afternoon).
  • If you begin to feel sleepy, drink one or two cups of coffee and take a 20-minute nap in a safe place.
4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Safety Council. Driving at night.

  2. AAA Senior Driving. Driving at night and managing glare.

  3. Hwang AD, Tuccar-Burak M, Peli E. Comparison of pedestrian detection with and without yellow-lens glasses during simulated night driving with and without headlight glare. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2019;137(10):1147-1153. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2019.2893

  4. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Research on drowsy driving.

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.