Cutting back on driving can be challenging, but as drivers age, many of them decide to limit their time behind the wheel. According to research conducted by The Hartford and MIT AgeLab, two-thirds of older drivers voluntarily self-regulate their driving. Many drivers self-regulate by limiting their driving in low light situations, such as at dusk, dawn or night.
Driving in low light can be dangerous for anyone, but is especially difficult for older drivers who experience natural, age-related changes in vision. Traffic fatalities are three times higher at night than during the day, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Still, for most drivers, it isn’t possible to completely avoid driving in limited visibility conditions. Many Americans age 50 and older commute to and from work, and therefore may be unable to avoid driving at dawn and dusk, especially as days grow shorter in the fall and winter months.
AARP Driver Safety recommends the following four tips for driving more safely at dusk, dawn and night.
1. Prepare your car before you hit the road. Any time you drive, it is important to ensure that your car is in its best working condition. To prepare your vehicle for driving at night, dusk and dawn, make sure your lights—headlights, taillights, brake lights and signals—are working properly and are clean. Clean the outside and inside of the light to ensure clarity about once a week. You should also have the aim of your headlights inspected at your state emissions check to make sure they are aligned properly to best illuminate the road.
2. Be conscious of vision changes. As we age, it is natural to experience vision changes that affect our visibility in low light situations, such as dusk and dawn. The NSC estimates that a 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see comfortably over a 30-year old driver. Limited light can affect depth perception, color perception, contrast sensitivity and peripheral vision. Get regular check-ups for conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma. Avoid wearing tinted sunglasses at night, though they may be helpful during dusk and dawn when the sun is still out.
3. Use your headlights—properly. Contrary to popular practice, you should use your headlights throughout the day, including dusk and dawn. Avoid high beams to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. There are very few situations in which is it appropriate to use your high beams or “brights,” such as driving at night, in rural areas with few streetlights. Not only will the beams highlight the road ahead of you more clearly, but they will alert you to the presence of deer and other animals. At all other times, avoid using your brights and check periodically to make sure they haven’t been turned on accidentally.
4. Avoid unnecessary dangers. You are far more likely get tired behind the wheel when driving at dusk, dawn or night. If you’re feeling drowsy behind the wheel, make frequent stops to get some fresh air and safely walk around. Also, keep in mind that people are more likely to drive intoxicated at night—especially on the weekends. Just one drink can affect your driving, so always have a designated driver or plan to take a taxi or public transit if you’re going to drink.
For more tips on how to stay safe on the road, consider taking a driver improvement course, such as the AARP Driver Safety course, available in a classroom or online setting, in both English and Spanish. In some states, you may even be eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the AARP Driver Safety course.*
For more information, visit www.aarp.org/driving45 or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
*The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Requirements vary from state to state. In some states, separate rules may apply to online driver improvement courses. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.
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Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety, has more than 30 years experience in management, strategic planning, transportation and safety. With AARP for over eight years, Lee directs the largest driver improvement course designed for drivers age 50 and older.
[Photo courtesy of trdesignr/flickr