Nighttime driving should be safe. After all, the roads are nearly empty. Fewer cars means fewer accidents—right? Unfortunately, the statistics indicate otherwise.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately half of all traffic fatalities occur at night. Because there are fewer cars on the road at night, this means that those cars have a greater chance of being in an accident. If fact, the NHTSA says the nighttime fatality rate is three times higher than the daytime fatality rate.
So why is driving at night so dangerous? It’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause. Instead, multiple nighttime hazards contribute to the problem.
- Darkness: This one is pretty obvious, but it’s still an important factor. Humans don’t have the best night vision. Cats, for example, have six to eight times more rod cells—the cells in the eye that are sensitive to light—than humans do, according to Live Science, making them much better at seeing in the dark than humans. With our poor night vision, we struggle to drive at night. (No, this doesn’t mean you should put your cat behind the wheel.)
- Glare: Headlights and streetlights can help drivers see in the dark, but the situation is far from ideal. Artificial light often results in a bad glare, especially when the windshield is dirty. Clean both the inside and outside of your windshield to reduce the problem.
- Animals: Many animals are active at night. Coyotes, raccoons and other nocturnal creatures may have good night vision, but drivers can struggle to see them as the dart across the road. Swerving to avoid an animal can sometimes cause the driver to crash.
- Pedestrians: Just as there are fewer cars out at night, there are also fewer pedestrians out. However, those pedestrians are often very difficult to see, especially if they are wearing dark clothes. Drivers need to look out for pedestrians, and not only at crosswalks. According to the CDC, most pedestrian fatalities happen at night, in urban areas, and away from intersections.
- Tired drivers: The NHTSA linked 72,000 crashes and 800 deaths to drowsy driving in 2013. This may be a huge underestimation—we can’t always tell if a driver was tired at the time of a crash—and the CDC estimates that as many as 6,000 fatal crashes may occur every year due to drowsy driving.
- Drunk drivers: The NHTSA has determined that alcohol plays a role in one-third of all fatal car accidents. At night, that rate can double. If you plan to drink, arrange for a designated driver. If you’re driving at night, look out for drunk drivers.
Although you can do your part to avoid drunk, drowsy and distracted driving, some nighttime hazards are out of your control. When driving at night, be extra cautious. There may be fewer cars on the road, but the risk is actually higher. Also, make sure you have great California auto insurance. Dashers can help – get a quote here!