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Driving at night


Driving after dark obviously means reduced visibility which can combine with tiredness to make driving more dangerous.

To reduce the risk of being involved in an accident, make sure you plan your journey carefully in advance. If you are going with other people who can legally drive, consider sharing the driving. Ensure that you and any other drivers are well rested before you set off, and plan for rest breaks every two hours or so. Book overnight stops for very long journeys.

Reduce your risk of falling asleep

If you are the only driver and you start feeling tired, the Highway Code suggests one way of temporarily reducing the risk of falling asleep at the wheel is to drink a cup of strong coffee or two and take a 15-minute nap. When you wake up, the caffeine should have kicked in.

Don't repeat this method over and over, however. Ultimately, the only thing you can really do to combat tiredness is to find somewhere safe to stop and sleep. You can find further information on combating fatigue here.

Adjust your headlights for driving in Europe

Before you head to Europe, you will need to adjust your car's headlamp beam pattern for driving on the right-hand side of the road, so that the dipped beam doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers. This is a compulsory requirement in most countries.

Headlamp-beam converter kits are widely available, but don't leave it to the last minute to sort this out. On some cars, the dealer will need to make the adjustment for you.

Be clean and efficient

Before you set off on a night-time journey, make sure your front and rear lights are in full working order and give them a clean. Dirty headlights can reduce efficiency by as much as 90 per cent.

Dirty or greasy windows can make it more difficult to see while driving at night. Clean your windscreen inside and out and clean your wiper blades with a tissue dipped in screenwash concentrate.

At night, your vision can be severely limited as you lose the advantage of colour and contrast that is available during the day, while depth perception and peripheral vision are also diminished.

This drop in visibility can lead to things suddenly 'appearing' out of nowhere, so be prepared for the unexpected and drive slower than you would in the day to give you time to react to sudden hazards.

Dazzling lights

If you find the lights from oncoming cars dazzling, instead of looking straight ahead, look slightly towards the left-hand side of the road – right when in mainland Europe - and watch the white line marking the outside edge of the traffic lane, if there is one.

Out of town

Unlit country roads are likely to be narrow, winding and have no footpath. While the darkness can actually make it easier to spot cars approaching on these roads as their lights will be visible for a good distance, be prepared to suddenly encounter wildlife and pedestrians on the road.

Dusk and dawn danger

Twilight and dawn are also dangerous times for driving as you may think you can see more in the half-light than you actually can. To make sure other people can see you, turn your headlights on one hour before sunset, and keep them on for one hour after the sun comes up.

Before you set off on a night-time drive across Europe, make sure you and your car are in good condition. Plan ahead, slow down and expect the unexpected. And make sure that you have adequate breakdown cover in place before setting out on any journey.

UK breakdown cover

See how we keep an eye on you while you keep an eye on the road.