Full beam ahead

Blog post posted on 02/11/22 |

In this safe driving blog, Head of Driving and Riding Standards Richard Gladman reminds us about how to make night driving safer with some simple checks.

In the Advanced driving world, we talk about the limit point of vision. And this is, of course, usually dictated at night by your headlamps.

When your lights are dipped it is likely they project between 50 and 70 metres ahead of you. And on full beam, around 100 metres. The quality of your lights is particularly important if you’re driving on an unlit road. If there’s other traffic in front you, you can use their lights to extend your vision. Plus, if their brake lights come on, straightaway you’ll be considering why they might be braking.

I was recently driving on an unlit section of the A1, overtaking an HGV in lane two, when I hit a tyre carcass flicked out by the HGV. I hit it before I saw it and there wasn’t really anything I could have done. It is very likely that, in daylight I would have seen it. But in the dark, I didn’t have any light on the nearside. So, that goes to show that you’re very much reliant on yours, and other people’s, beams.

Bearing all that in mind, it might sound obvious but prepare before you set off.

Check your front and rear lights, and your brake, fog and indicator lights are working and properly adjusted. You can dazzle people if your headlights are badly adjusted. Too often people adjust them down, so they don’t then provide a proper beam. There are lots of tutorials on the internet that can help you to do this. But even using your garage door and some tape to mark where your headlights should hit when you park the correct distance away from it will help.

Also check your light lenses...

Plastic ones deteriorate and go foggy over time. Either your garage can polish them. Or you can buy a plastic polish to use at home that will allow more light through. And check the reflector lens inside the light. If that is starting to deteriorate, the light it reflects from the bulb won’t be as bright.

Even before you set off at night, or if you know your journey will include night driving, make sure your windscreen is clean – inside and out. Get rid of that horrible mist you get on the inside, which is actually caused by the plastic of your dashboard releasing a vapour that condenses your windscreen.

It also goes without saying that you need to ensure your wipers are really good.

Because if they’re not and it rains at night, you’re going to get a horrible smear that will be really difficult to see through, particularly when the lights of oncoming traffic hit it.

Ask yourself whether your eyesight is as good as it should be.

Get it tested regularly. I know my eyes aren’t as good as they were even three or four years ago. So I get mine checked regularly. And if you need to wear glasses, wear them – never set off without them. Perhaps keep a spare pair in the car. And don’t try tinted glasses, even if they’re advertised for night driving.

Finally, I’d advise that you discourage front seat passengers from looking at their phone or a tablet while you’re driving.

There aren’t any rules around having an interior light on, or a passenger looking at a mobile. But I personally find it really distracting and normally pull over if my passenger is looking up something about the journey, such as directions.

For more safe driving hints and tips from Richard, and to read our member stories, go to https://www.iamroadsmart.com/about-us/news-and-insights