Night Perils of Night Driving
By Slyva Mularchyk
people really enjoy night driving - those who do are blessed with excellent night
vision. The rest of us would prefer not to drive at night, but there are times
when it must be done.
Each of us sees with a different degree of perception,
and at night that ability is reduced, along with the ability to distinguish objects
and judge distances. Nothing looks the same at night as it does during the daylight
hours. At night, shapes, sizes, and colors are distorted, and ordinary objects
take on an eerie quality. The old adage that at night all cats are gray is in
fact quite true.
Age is a determining factor in night-seeing ability.
The older the driver, the more light she requires to see, and the harder it is
to adjust to sudden light changes, such as headlamp glare. But resistance to glare
varies in all drivers. Depending on speed, some drivers may be driving blind after
exposure to headlight glare for as far as 50 to 75 feet, some as far as 100 feet.
In these situations, it is best to slow down and try to guide your car using your
peripheral vision, keeping your gaze on the right side of the road and alternating
it with the center line. Vision adjustment from light to dark may take up to a
half-hour, whereas the opposite, adjusting from dark to light, may take only a
few seconds. True night vision adaptation is not achieved while driving, since
your own headlights and dash lights interfere. Dimming the dash lights will help
the your eyes adjust. Too much exposure to sunlight during the day can also impair
your ability to see at night, so wearing sunglasses during the day can help your
eyes to adapt to the dark later on. It is a good idea to have your sunglasses
handy when you drive into a brightly lighted area, such as a service station,
toll booth or a recreation area.
Remember, no matter how excellent your
vision, you cannot see beyond your headlights, so be sure to maintain a speed
that will allow you to stop within that distance. High speed and following other
vehicles too closely are the two greatest night-driving hazards.
All the safety
rules that you follow during the day should be adhered to even more stringently
at night. Though you may be familiar with the street or highway on which you are
driving, never assume that the roads will be as easy to navigate as they are during
the day. A small dog may be crossing the road, an object may have fallen from
another vehicle, the wind may have blown an obstruction onto the street, a truck
without rear lights may have stopped dead ahead of you-- all these situations
require a sharp eye and quick maneuvering. But most dangerous of all are the other
drivers, the ones you are passing. You could encounter a drunk driver, a tired
driver just getting off the late shift, or even a good driver who is fumbling
with the radio controls. You must drive not only to protect yourself, but also
to defend yourself against other drivers.
Evening twilight, the hours
between sunset and complete darkness, is the most dangerous time for driving.
Be ever watchful during these hours because your headlights do not provide sufficient
light, and your eyes have not adjusted to the falling darkness. Light drops quickly
and visibility diminishes rapidly, much faster than your eyes can adjust. It is
wise to ease up on the accelerator until your confidence is restored. Morning
twilight or dawn is less hazardous because the light is steadily increasing.
Aside from all the uncertainties that come with sharing the road with other
drivers, your greatest hazard is yourself. Be careful not to succumb to the feeling
of security that comes from sitting comfortably behind a wheel, a long ribbon
of highway stretched out before you, the motor singing softly, contentment pervading
your thoughts and dreams...
Dreams? No, not now! Don't start dreaming
while you're on the road! If you find yourself beginning to doze, turn off the
highway and splash some cold water on your face before you continue driving. It
is better to get there late than never to get there at all. Another old adage
to live by.
FOR EYEGLASS WEARERS
have discovered an anti-reflective coating that practically eliminates the reflective
glare from oncoming headlights. It allows more light to pass through your eyeglass
lenses, allowing you to see more clearly while driving at night.
anti-reflective coating can also reduce eye fatigue from computer use and reading,
and also makes your lenses less noticeable to others. For a free brochure, ask
your eye care professional or write to the AR Council, P.O. Box 71385, Richmond,
VA 23255; or visit www.arcouncil.org.