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TCC Tip: How To Drive Safely At Night

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NIght Driving

NIght Driving

Some of us spend too much time there as it is, but with daylight-savings time drawing to an end on November 7, we're all going to be in the dark, earlier and more often.

Is that dangerous? A new survey says that's a daunting prospect to many drivers--and finds that some skip driving entirely at night out of fear.

The light-bulb experts at Sylvania, along with KRC Research, polled more than a thousand adults last month and found that more than half of them wished they could see the road ahead better at night. Almost 1/5th of those polled also said they've avoided driving at night, over concerns with vision and visibility.

By the firms' calculations, that's 37 million people missing out on nighttime fun behind the wheel, with half of that number being people under 55 years old, when their vision shouldn't be cutting into driving.

Being afraid of driving in the dark is also more common with women: 24 percent of women, versus 12 percent of men, reported staying home instead of venturing out after dusk.

Short of arming yourself with klieg lights and miles of reflective tape, what can you do to make yourself more at ease with nighttime driving? Our round-the-clock editors came up with five ways to get more comfortable--and more safe--when you're driving after hours:

Make sure your headlights are working properly. It's a safety concern and a legal one, too, but it's also common sense. If you're running on one lamp or less, swap out the faulty one(s) with the correct replacement--or even one with a little more candlepower.

Make sure your headlights are clean and properly aimed. We've seen some amazing compounds that will remove the muck and swirls of age from plastic headlight covers. We've also seen drivers smack their heads in recognition when they've aimed their headlights properly and realized one-up, one-down lights don't do anyone any good. Aim the nose at a wall, turn on the lights, and look under the hood, near the headlight assembly for adjusters if you're out of line.

Use your high beams more often--but responsibly. Some of our fellow drivers seem afraid of inflicting mortal wounds with their high beams. You can flick them on (the lights, not the drivers) on interstates if you're far enough behind the cars ahead. Don't be lazy with the switch; you paid for it, use it.

If you're shopping for a new car, look for the latest technology. Some vehicles like the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class have automatic high beams, active-cornering headlamps and LED headlights. If you're on the frightened end of the night-driving spectrum, these features could be your automotive Xanax.

Dim all the lights--and the distractions. Setting your car's ambient and interior lighting to lower levels will increase the visual contrast to the road ahead. While you're at it, stow the iPhone in the console, keep the radio at a softer volume, and don't take phone calls--because distractions aimed at one sensory organ can interfere with another.

You can't control nature at work, but by adjusting your car and your driving habits, you can cut the risk of becoming a night-time statistic.

[Photo: JohnTrainor]

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  1. A note, some cars don't have adjust headlight aims anymore. My 2007 Saturn Aura XR is one of these. The headlight module is statically mounted in such a way that one of the bolt points is behind the front bumper. The bumper cover must be removed to replace lightbulbs. There is no aiming mechanism.
     
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