Welcome back to the final installment of our series on truck driving at night. In our last article we covered crucial factors involved with ensuring safe driving at night. Today, we will dig into specific procedures that you need to know to operate safely in the evening hours.
Let’s face it, outside of inclement weather, such as driving during the winter, operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) at night can be a perilous endeavor. Not only should you actively know the procedures, but you’ve got to be ready to apply them. Let’s dig a little deeper.
When it comes to driving safely at night, being prepared goes a long way. When a truck driver is properly prepared, they can focus on the task at hand without having to be concerned with minor details such as route planning or functional equipment.
This is why getting yourself ready is so important. Above all, you must be rested and alert. If you are already feeling fatigued, the effects of night driving can make the situation even more dangerous.
Even something as minor as dirty eyeglasses can turn a safe situation into a perilous one. Scratches and dirt magnify glare, after all. And although this goes without saying, never wear sunglasses at night, no matter how much you love the song.
Beyond ensuring your eyeglasses are clean, you need to put careful consideration into route planning. After all, the last thing you want to do is get lost on a dark and windy road. And remember, route planning isn’t just about your final destination. Keep roadway entrances and exits in mind and know where construction zones are located.
Finally, make sure your vehicle is ready to go before the sun dips below the horizon. When doing your pre-trip inspection, pay special attention to lights, reflectors and your windshield, and clean as needed.
The Act of Driving
Once you have ensured you are fully prepared, it’s time to hit the road. Remember, there are additional issues you have to deal with when driving at night.
First, avoid blinding other drivers. If you are using your high beams, make sure to dim them before they present a glare problem for others on the road. A good rule of thumb is to ensure you dim them within at least 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and again when following a vehicle within 500 feet.
Second, make sure not to blind yourself. Looking directly into the headlights of an oncoming vehicle can cause serious problems. Instead, look toward the right side of the road and/or right lane edge marking when you see bright oncoming lights approaching.
Finally, make sure your vehicle’s dome lights are off and your instrument panel lighting is dimmed. Bright lights shining from within the cab can diminish your ability to see outside the vehicle. Also scan your mirrors. Not only does this help maximize visibility, but is also fights fatigue.
We’ve spent plenty of time talking about proper communication while you are on the road, but this is even more important when you are operating at night. Let’s face it, in the dead of night your only means of communication is your horn or lights.
Make sure you are stopping, slowing down or changing direction far earlier than you would in the daytime. Use your horn sparingly and avoid blinding others with lights as a way of signaling your intent.
Speed and Space
When you are driving during the night time hours, it is imperative that you increase your following distance time by at least one second. This allows you extra time to react to unexpected road hazards and obstructions.
When you are rounding curves, your vehicle’s headlights shine straight ahead. Over driving your headlights can impair your ability to see road hazards or react to the unexpected. Reducing your speed is the best way to deal with curves or other immediate road emergencies.
With that, we hope you’ve enjoyed our look at the special issues and challenged associated with night driving. Above all, remember that night time driving requires extra diligence. Now get out on the road and drive safe!