Seniors urged to take precautions for safer nighttime driving

Press Staff Writer

        According to AAA, driving at night presents challenges for all drivers. Senior drivers can face substantially increased risk, because of decreased visual distance and sensitivity to the contrast between darkness and bright lights along roadways.
        Wood County Safe Communities and Ohio State Highway Patrol remind senior drivers to take precautions to avoid hazards when driving at night.
        Difficulties like decreased visual distance and sensitivity to the contrast between darkness and bright lights along roadways are the most common reasons older drivers self-regulate their night time driving. Many senior drivers also find they just don’t need to be driving at night as often as they used to and primarily drive during the day. This can result in driving under less stressful conditions, too.
        Seniors who cannot avoid driving at night, can manage risk by taking the following precautions:
        Minimize night driving challenges:
        • Adjust your speed to the reach of your headlights. Do not “overdrive” your headlights by driving at a speed that wouldn’t allow you to stop for an obstacle at the far reaches of your headlights. Compensate for reduced visibility by decreasing your speed and increasing following distance to four or more seconds behind the car in front of you.
        • Keep your eyes moving. Do not focus on the middle of the area illuminated by your headlights. Watch for sudden flashes of light at hilltops, around curves or at intersections, because these may indicate the presence of oncoming vehicles.
        • Look at the sides of objects. In dim light during reduced visibility, focus on the edges or outlines of objects. Your eyes can pick up images more sharply this way than by looking directly at the object.
        • Protect your eyes from glare. Prolonged exposure to glare from sunlight or headlights can temporarily affect your visibility at night. It can also lead to eyestrain and drowsiness. Wear good sunglasses on bright days and take them off as soon as the sun goes down. After steady daytime driving, rest awhile before you begin driving at night. At night, look to the center of your pathway and use the painted edge lines to guide your vehicle.
        • Avoid being blinded by oncoming high beams. If the driver of an oncoming vehicle fails to dim the lights, look down toward the right side of the road to avoid being blinded. You should be able to see the edge of the lane or the painted edge line and stay on course until the vehicle passes.
        Combat glare
        • Adjust both outside mirrors. Properly aligned mirrors not only reduce blind spots, they also reduce glare from vehicles behind you. While sitting in the driver’s seat, lean to the left and tilt your head until it rests against the window. From that position, adjust the driver's side mirror so you can just see the left rear corner of the vehicle.
        • Avert your eyes. When oncoming vehicles shine light directly into your eyes, turn your gaze to the white line on the right side of the road, or to where the pavement meets the shoulder, until the vehicle goes by.
        • Use the rearview mirrors. All cars have day/night interior mirrors to reduce glare from cars directly behind you. You can usually change the mirror to its “night” setting by flipping the small lever at the bottom of the mirror.
        • Make it easier for others to see your vehicle. When you drive with your lights on during the day, other drivers can see you at a distance of about 4,700 feet, compared to about 2,500 feet with no lights on.
        Safe Communities advocates for awareness of traffic related incidents and deaths through education initiatives to develop a safer Wood County. Learn more at


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