The Three Factors Involving Nighttime Driving

When it comes to truck driver safety, it’s about more than just CSA scores. Driving a commercial motor vehicle requires specific skills and calm focus, especially when you are operating in adverse conditions, be it winter whether or dead of night.

In Part I of this new series, we will take a look at just that driving condition: Night driving. Although truck drivers who work overnight hours might not have to deal with congested roadways, they have another set of hazards they have to deal with.

Potential hazards of driving at night include poor lighting, reduced visibility, and impaired drivers. There are three major factors you must focus on when driving at night:

  • Driver;
  • Roadway;
  • Vehicle.

Let’s take a closer look at each factor of this crucial truck driver skill set.

Driver Factors

There are several major factors that affect your ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). They are:

  1. Vision – The fact remains: We don’t see as well at night as we do in the daytime. In the dark hours, visual acuity is reduced, side vision is poorer, and your eyes have a difficult time adjusting to abrupt changes in darkness and light.
  2. Glare – The bright light of oncoming lights can temporarily blind you. When it does, your eyes can take several seconds to recover from the glare effect. When a vehicle is covering 150 – 160 feet in two seconds, a few seconds of blindness can be quite dangerous.
  3. Fatigue – When it comes to safe driving, fatigue is a factor, and no more so than at night. After all, our body is accustomed to shutting down at night. Fatigue can reduce your reaction time and cause blurred vision. Watch for fatigue if you are experiencing the following:
    • Frequent or repeated yawning;
    • Struggling to keep your eyes open;
    • Heavy or drooping head;
    • A sore neck;
    • Dozing off for a second or two;
    • Erratic speed control;
    • Following too closely.
  4. Driver inexperience – While this may be a lesser factor than the others, truck driver inexperience can play a part.

Roadway Factors

The road you are on plays an important role in the safety of you, your vehicle, and those around you. Here are the factors that are at play on the roadway:

  1. Visibility – Because your visibility is reduced at night, it is much harder to see the roadway. Your reaction time to recognize an oncoming hazard is impaired and constricted to the scope of your headlights.
  2. Route familiarity – If you are on a road you do not recognize, there could be a hazard lurking around that next corner that you don’t know about. Always proceed on unknown roads with caution and make sure you have enough stopping distance.
  3. Impaired drivers – Impaired drivers are a hazard to everyone on the road. Keep a keen eye for vehicles that are weaving in-and-out of lanes or have trouble maintaining a constant speed.
  4. Road users – Whether it is someone walking or a wild animal, you must always keep an eye out for other users of the road. Pay special attention to shoulders and roadways lined with tall grasses or woods.

Vehicle Factors

The condition of your vehicle plays an important role in your ability to drive effectively at night. Here are the three essential items that play into your vehicle’s nighttime safety:

  1. Lights – At night, your headlights are the main way you see the road, especially on rural roads and highways where other lights may not be present. In good weather, your beams should shine at least 250 feet in front of you. Make sure the following lights are clean and working:
    • Marker lights;
    • Reflecting lights;
    • Clearance lights;
    • Taillights;
    • Identification lights;
    • Turn signals;
    • Brake lights.
  2. Windshield and mirrors – Although you may be able to get away with a grimy windshield or set of mirrors, the night won’t be so forgiving. Dirt on the windshield can create glare, especially during the dusk or dawn.

Above all, remember that nighttime driving requires extra care and concern, for both you and your equipment. Stay safe driving at night, and you’ll be alright. And don’t forget to join us next week when we cover in-depth factors of nighttime driving techniques!