By: Cheyenne Estep | SADD National Student Leadership Council
Are you aware of the driving dangers that lurk in the dark? As a teen with a jam-packed schedule, there are times where it is inevitable to make it home before sunset. With practices, club meetings, and other extracurriculars or events, driving at night is a common activity at our age. While there is a wide variety of reasons to be traveling after dark, it is vital to remain vigilant, especially as a teen driver. According to the National Safety Council, driving at night is more dangerous than any other time of day. In fact, the risk of a fatal crash is three times greater at night. Decreased visibility, drowsiness, wildlife, or adverse weather conditions combined with a lack of skills, immaturity, and inexperience could be a lethal equation for a teen driver after dark.
Maybe you have nailed driving during the day but driving at night is a whole different ball game, as it is one of the most common risks to teens while behind the wheel. Lack of light can cause a myriad of issues and complications, that is why it is important to not only gain experience with the task of driving during the day with your parent or driving instructor, but also at night. With reduced visibility after the sun goes down, slow down and keep your windshield squeaky clean to help you see the road ahead. Also, make sure your headlights are in working order and know when you need to use high beams and low beams. Your bright lights will help you gain visibility, so flip them on when there is no fog or oncoming cars. Other road users could be a threat to your safety too, especially if they are driving distracted, drowsy, drunk, or drugged. Be alert and assess all threats to your safety – day or night!
As a teen, there is an immense amount of pressure to remain active and perform well in everything we do, leaving sleep at the bottom of our list of priorities. We can be a danger to ourselves without the necessary seven to nine hours of sleep each night that our body needs. NHTSA research states that those who are at higher risk for a crash caused by drowsy driving include drivers 17-23 years old, and those who sleep less than six hours a night, drive on rural roads, or who drive between midnight and 6 a.m. Think about drowsiness as a form of impairment. If you’re feeling exhausted, do not be afraid to call a friend or a family member for a ride. This is a great strategy for ensuring your safety, as well as the safety of other road users.
The risks and dangers of night driving are often neglected, especially if it is something that you do often. Teens - take some time to review the nighttime driving restrictions set for your states’ Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. They are set to help you safely gain driving experience! Although navigation of the roadway becomes more difficult after dark, taking the necessary precautions will help you reduce the risk of a crash or fatality, and gain experience along the way. Practice this driving skill often in conjunction with other driving skills to get where you are going safely. This will help you become confident with your skills and abilities behind the wheel. SADD and The National Road Safety Foundation’s Passport to Safe Driving is a great resource to take advantage of when learning to master the art of driving. If you set out on the roadways after the sun sets, be aware of the dangers of the dark, SADD Nation!