According to the National Safety Council, traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during daylight hours. This is because driving hazards increase drastically once darkness falls. The primary component of any car rental driver’s reaction is tied to vision: perception, colour recognition, and peripheral vision are all essential, but limited in the darkness. Add fatigue and the increased risk of encountering an intoxicated driver, and your evening commute could turn deadly.
Why Driving at Night is Difficult
Driving a car rental at night is difficult due to a condition known as night vision. The human eye is dependent on light in order to see properly. During daylight, the iris of the eye closes, narrowly focusing the light that is entering the eye through the pupil. This increases the eyes ability to focus naturally. At night, the iris opens wide in order to capture more light. This causes the eye to focus light on a much larger area of the lens. Oddly enough, this improves the eye’s side or peripheral vision, but makes it more difficult for car rental drivers to focus on objects that are directly to the front, but further away.
So, What Does this Have to Do With My Driving?
When traveling from a well-lit street to a dark road, your iris experiences a lapse of focus. The same happens when traveling from a dark environment into one dominated by light. The change can sometimes take up to 30 minutes for your eyes to fully adapt and your night vision to completely focus.
Night Driving Precautions
Fortunately, there are many precautions you can take that will heighten your car rental driving safety at night. The following are a few things to keep in mind before heading home in your car rental.
1) Perform a Quick Walk-Around
Before you hit the road, take a few minutes to perform a vehicle walk-around. Check to make sure your headlights, taillights, and signal lights are clean and working properly. If possible, try and perform this check prior to driving your car rental off the lot. You’ll want to make sure that all of your lights are functioning properly prior to finalizing your rental agreement. If you’re traveling alone, stay safe during your light check: back up to a shop window and press your brakes. You’ll be able to check their status via your rear view mirror without ever having to leave your vehicle.
2) Keep Distractions At Bay
Driving an unfamiliar vehicle is distraction enough, adding your cellphone to the mix is just asking for trouble. Keep any electronics, snacks, or reading materials in the back seat to avoid temptation. Phones should be off-limits to your front seat passenger as well. The glow from the screen can be distracting at night.
3) Be Courteous and Alert
Tailgating kills, especially at night. Reduce your speed and increase the distance between the car in front of you in order to give yourself more room and time to react to unexpected circumstances. Reducing your speed will also prevent you from outdriving your headlights, resulting in optimum visibility. When driving behind other cars, keep your headlights on the low beam setting. If an oncoming vehicle forgets to turn their high beams off, avoid the harsh glare by watching the right edge of the road and relying on your steering as a guide.
When driving on weekends, remember to be extra alert. Drunk-driver-related accidents are at their highest during these times.
4) Don’t Ignore Fatigue
If you begin to feel sleepy during your drive don’t push your limit. Pull your car rental over and take a break. Grab a coffee from the drive-through or even take a quick walk. A little activity will help you refocus.
Remember: there are no bad car rentals, just bad car rental drivers! It’s up to you to stay alert and safe when driving your rental vehicle.