Take extra care at night even with hi-tech systems

2009-11-20 11:40

COLOURFUL Christmas decorations are just about everywhere and, like it or not, the roads will in a few days become nightmarish as holidaymakers begin the long drive to their various destinations.

It is that “silly season” time of the year again when national roads will be congested. And this will invariably be accompanied by the tragic loss of lives due to accidents.

Many motorists prefer driving at night or in the early hours of the morning as they believe the roads are more quiet and less dangerous during these periods.

But the Automobile Association of South Africa (AASA) says that though driving at night has its benefits it can be equally dangerous.

While there are fewer cars on the road at night, AASA says the proportion of fatalities under the veil of darkness is higher than during daylight.

Fatigue, reduced visibility, lack of attention and the influence of alcohol are factors mostly associated with night accidents, says AASA spokesperson Gary Roland.

“Depth perception is also reduced at night, resulting in impaired judgment and delayed reflex reactions,” Roland says.

He says about 20% of adults suffer from defective vision to some degree, ranging from mild-short sightedness to night blindness. Some road-users are unaware that they have a degree of night blindness.

“After leaving a brightly lit place, it takes about 30 minutes before the human eye can see at 80% efficiency, and up to an hour before night vision is at its best.”

According to AASA, motorists who find that driving at night is a severe strain on their eyes should consult an optometrist, who may recommend that driving after dark be avoided.

Leading car manufacturers have committed to technologically advanced systems such as night-vision systems available in some of their high-spec models.

These systems allow the driver to clearly see all the objects before him on a centre screen.

Not every person can afford a hi-tech vehicle so it is of utmost importance that motorists take extra care on the long road – whether driving ­during the night or day. 

AA safety tips for in the dark

Avoid driving long distances at night, and if you do have to drive far, ensure that you are alert and that you drive responsibly.

Take regular breaks to relax your eyes and stimulate your muscles.

Objects that are poorly lit are best seen if you focus your vision slightly to the one side, as peripheral vision is less ­affected by poor light than ­central vision.

Reduce your speed at night so that you never drive beyond the range of your vision and so can stop within the length of road illuminated by your headlights.

Increase your following distances at night and, unless you are about to overtake, keep the vehicle ahead at such a distance that it is just in the far limit of light from the dipped beam.

Remember that fog-lights are banned unless it is misty or raining and can cause eye ­fatigue for those following your car, so only use them if you ­really need to.

Your headlights should be dipped well before an approaching ­vehicle is within range of your vision.
 
Resist the temptation to retaliate when other drivers to not dim their beams, as this poses further danger.

Adjust your headlights periodically, especially with heavier than usual loads which may tilt the car. Also dip the beam which will be angled to shine too far ahead and dazzle oncoming ­drivers.

Plan your route and your stops. Also make sure your watch your fuel gauge so you don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere.  

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