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Driving Tips: How To Drive Safely At Night And During The Fall


After a summer of vigorous off-road adventures, one headlight beam on Stan's SUV strayed across to the shoulder of the far lane. The other beam lit up the tree line on the right shoulder. Which didn't present much of a problem in the summer, but the days were getting shorter now and Stan spent more time driving at night.

But who has time to have his headlights aligned?Other cars could see him coming, and he had enough light to see almost anything in his path ... except maybe that shadowy animal crossing the road at dusk on rain slick pavement. After Stan ran off the road dodging the animal, Stan finally took the time to get his headlights aligned.

Fall driving presents a variety of obstacles, and more drivers die from September through November than during the winter months of December through February. Slick roads, foggy mornings, and roaming wildlife are just some of the increased hazards.

You must also contend with less daylight and morning and evening sun glare.

Driving In The Dark

Everyone sees less well at night. In fact, you are three times as likely to be involved in a fatal crash at night as during daylight hours. Keep these tips in mind as the seasons change.

* Less light means slow down Drive below the speed limit and increase your following distance.

* Take curves slower, and never overdrive your headlights. Be sure you can stop if something suddenly appears in the roadway.

* Use high beams as much as possible on highways and unlighted streets. Remember, though, low beams are mandatory if you're within 500 feet of another vehicle or in fog. Note: Low beams lose their efficiency at speeds above 40 mph.

* One of the greatest dangers of night driving is sudden light from street lights, neon signs, wet pavements and approaching cars. Try to look away from glare. Use the lines or edge of the pavement on your right side to help guide you.

* Don't try to "out-glare" a vehicle that does not switch to low beams. Be the first to be courteous. Retaliation for bad manners only results in two blinded drivers.

* Take special care on poorly lit, rural roads.

Preventive Maintenance

* Clean and check your headlights regularly. Headlight dirt or misalignment can reduce the distance a driver can detect objects at night by about thirty percent.

* Get your headlights aligned during a regular maintenance stop. If you can't get to a technician, the National Safety Council suggests the following steps:

-You need 35-40 feet of flat or constantly sloped driveway.

-Shine your low beams on a garage door two to three feet away.

-Outline the bright spots with a soft pencil or tape.

-Back the car about 25 feet from the door. The top of the low beams should shine no higher than the top of the marks on the door or lower than the center of the marked circle. If you have two headlights, the high beams are also aimed.

-If you have four headlights, aim the low beams first. Adjust the high beams until the center of the high is at the top of the low beam.

Seasonal Hazards

* To minimize the glare problems at sunrise and sunset, use your visor, and wear sunglasses if necessary. Never wear sunglasses or tinted glasses at night.

* Be wary of drivers who are driving into a glare at your back. Give yourself plenty of room to come to a controlled stop.

* Turn on your headlights whenever you wonder if it's dark enough to use headlights. It will help you see and be seen.

* Clean your windshield inside and out, especially if you are a smoker. Smoke can cloud your windows and diffuse light.

* Keep paper towels or a rag handy in the interior of your car.

* Keep your wipers clean and new. Streaks make glare worse. Check the washing fluid often.

* To avoid skids in rainy weather, slow down. If you do skid, steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.

* As soon as temperatures start diving into the 30s, slow down before crossing a bridge.

* Deer and other wildlife are active in the fall. If a collision is unavoidable, slow down to reduce the impact. Stay under control.

John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..

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