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10 tips for safer driving after dark

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Familiar roads can seem very different once the sun goes down. After dark, we lose much of our depth perception, peripheral vision, and colour recognition.

It's easy to see why night driving presents a unique set of challenges. Here are 10 tips to help you stay safe when you're on the road after dark:

1. Test your eyesight.
Many people need different prescription glasses for day and night driving. Do you? Have your eyes tested.

2. Slow down.
It is more difficult to judge both speed and distance after dark. Slowing down helps keep the car more manageable if you need to brake unexpectedly.

3. Keep your distance.
Extend the "2 second rule" to 3 seconds: at night, count 3 seconds between you and the car in front of you.

4. Clean your windshield, headlights and mirrors.
Glare can be more pronounced at night, and glare from a smudged or dirty windshield can pose a serious hazard.

5. Be kind with your headlights.
If there's a driver in front of you, keep your high beams on low, and dim them at the first sign of an oncoming car. If an oncoming driver doesn't dim the lights, shift your eyes to the white line at the right edge of the road. Don't try to stare through the beam.

6. Watch for creatures.
According to the City of Ottawa, there are 1,000 wildlife/vehicle collisions reported each year in the Ottawa area.2 While you may expect to see animals like dogs, cats and raccoons on the road anytime, spring and fall are the most common time to encounter larger animals such as deer, moose or elk — particularly between dusk and dawn. If you think you see an animal moving ahead, slow down and honk your horn. Stay in control and do not swerve aggressively. Don't risk driving head-on into an oncoming vehicle.

7. Beware of obstructions.
If you travel through mountainous or hilly terrain, you can count on finding rocks, trees, or mud across the road.

8. Don't drive if you're drowsy.
Fighting the urge to sleep, especially after dark, is a serious mistake. Pull over and take a 20-minute cat nap if you're feeling tired or find yourself yawning, blinking, or stretching your neck.

9. Forgo all alcohol.
Alcohol is a sedative and even one drink can make it harder for you to stay awake. Day or night, drinking impairs your ability to drive. But after dark, even a small amount of alcohol can be deadly.

10. Make sure others can see you.
Check that all of your car's lights are working, and ensure that your headlights are properly aligned. If you have to slow down or pull over on a dark road, turn on your emergency flashers.

According to Transport Canada, night-time driving accounts for just a quarter of all road trips but more than 40% of all traffic fatalities.1 Keep it in mind!

1 Transport Canada, 1998 Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision statistics.

2 Ottawa, Wildlife/Vehicle Collision Prevention.