Lighting and Visibility Part 2: Driving Safety from Dawn to Dusk


by Neighborhood Safety Reporter

At this time of year, there are fewer daylight hours, and even fewer due to the NW’s winter cloud cover. About one fourth of our driving is at night, but half of traffic deaths happen after dark. Driving at night is always dangerous, but rain or icy conditions make it even more hazardous.

Last week we featured tips for pedestrian safety (including bicycles, scooters, etc). This week we’ll focus on cars and their drivers.


No, it's not your imagination. As we get older, it takes longer for our eyes to recover from the glare of oncoming headlights. Conversely, the amount of light needed to see clearly doubles roughly every 13 years.

__ Consult your eye care provider annually. Is your eyeglass prescription current? Could early stage cataracts or dry eye be impacting your night vision? Those conditions can amplify glare and halos but, fortunately, they're treatable. Do you have lighter colored eyes? Or have you had laser-refractive surgery? Those may cause your eyes to be more sensitive to glare.

__ Upgrade lenses with anti-glare coating, sometimes called ‘anti-reflective’ lenses.

__ Think twice about "night vision" glasses. The amber-lens also cuts down on the total amount of light that reaches your eye. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association there was no benefit in wearing the glasses for night driving, particularly among older drivers.



__ Keep headlights clean and replace yellowed or oxidized headlights. If your car's headlight covers have grown yellow and hazy with age, they can reduce visibility by up to 80%! A detailer can help, but you can tackle the job yourself with a headlight restoration kit, available at most auto-parts stores.

__ Aim headlights correctly. Improperly aligned headlights impair your vision and that of oncoming drivers. At your car's next regular service, ask your mechanic to check and adjust them, if needed.

__ Use high beams more often. High beams can double your ability to see objects ahead of you, giving about 400 feet of visibility compared with around 200 feet for low beams. You can use your high beams any time there are no oncoming vehicles and when you're more than 300 feet behind another car. Switch to low beams when you're within 500 feet (about a block) of an oncoming driver. If you're on a winding road, you'll also want to dim your lights before you go around a curve to avoid blinding an oncoming driver.


__ Carry ready-to-use glass wipes. A car wash removes grime from your headlights and windshield. But filmy buildup on the INSIDE of your windshield can amplify glare and reduce visibility, too. Keep mirrors film-free, too.

__ Clean the wiper blades periodically to get rid of streak-causing oxidized rubber and road oil.

__ Change wiper blades once a year. They're only good for about one season before they start skipping and streaking.


__ Alter your routes; choose well-lighted streets.

__ Limit nighttime driving as much as possible. Avoid rainy or foggy conditions.

__ Review WA state laws for crosswalks:

__ Stop well in front of crosswalks. You'll help other drivers realize a pedestrian is crossing.

__ Resist the urge to "do a good deed" by stopping and waving on pedestrians mid-block or for whom the crossing signal hasn't yet changed. Drivers behind you won't be expecting you to stop, and oncoming drivers won't anticipate a pedestrian suddenly emerging on their side of the road.

__ Don’t overtake a stopped vehicle. Chances are, it's stopped for a pedestrian.

__ Slow down in dark or wet conditions, particularly around schools and construction work zones. Speed limits are set for optimal conditions; night driving and wet roads are far from optimal!

__ Don’t rely on your car's emergency braking and pedestrian-detection features.

__ Don't be distracted by your phone, food, beverages, etc while you are driving.

__ Stay alert! Stay Alive! Losing two hours of sleep has the same effect on driving as having three beers, and tired drivers are three times more likely to be in a car crash if they are fatigued.


__ Select a car with newest safety features, as reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Top Safety Pick designation.

Most recent 2022 awards:

__ Does your instrument panel have a dimmer and light-sensitive mirror that adjust automatically?

__ Does your car have "adaptive headlights"or “high-beam assist”? A sensor, usually mounted on the rear-view mirror, detects headlights and rear lights of other vehicles ahead. If the road in front is clear, high-beam headlights are activated, automatically dipping when another vehicle comes into sight.


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