Night operations are essential to the trucking industry. To competitively service customers, most trucking companies and independent owner-operators conduct a large portion of their long-haul business at night. In some respects, night driving has an advantage because there is less passenger car traffic. On the other hand, there are some unique conditions to night driving which require professional truck drivers to make special adjustments. For truckers, storms, snow-covered or icy roads, fog or rain, and driving at night all pose additional and sometimes extraordinary hazards.
Here are some driving tips that will make night driving safer and easier.
1. Clean your windows
Before starting a trip, clean your windows on the inside, especially if you smoke. And clean the outside of the windows, mirrors and headlights to improve your visibility. This is often overlooked, and dirty or streaky windows can severely impact night vision for truck drivers.
2. Increase your following distance and slow your speed
It’s a good idea to begin to adjust your night driving habits about a half hour before dusk. Your ability to see is the greatest problem with night driving. Your field of vision is decreased at night. For instance, a trucker’s view becomes limited to the actual headlight range. Your ability to react properly is reduced at night, and your ability to react is limited to what you can see. Therefore, the practical stopping distance is greater at night. Increase your distance and slow your speed.
3. Intensify your scanning
Scanning means observing everything around your rig. This is a key hazard perception skill that drivers need to use to avoid accidents. It is harder to see potential hazards in the darkness; increase your scanning routine during night time driving.
4. Allow time for your eyes to adjust
One of the main features of driving at night, or using your eyes in dim illumination, is dark adaptation. The effect of the time required for dark adaptation is that if you leave a brightly lit environment, i.e. a truck stop, restaurant, fueling station, etc., you haven’t adjusted to night vision for at least 4 or 5 minutes. Your vision will continue to improve for perhaps another half hour or so.
5. Get your eyes checked
The pupils of your eyes enlarge to let in more light, which helps in your light-gathering ability. But this also has a side effect of stressing the focusing system of the eye; someone that may be able to see well in bright light because their pupils are small may not see as well at night, particularly if they need glasses. In addition, as we age our eyes change. One of the most common changes when we age is that the lens of the eye tends to get a little harder and starts to cloud up slightly. Get regular exams to ensure your vision is properly adjusted.
6. Increase awareness at dawn and dusk
Dawn and dusk are particularly hazardous driving times. It’s a good idea to put the headlights on a half hour before sunset and leave them on until a half hour after sunrise.
7. High-beam headlights
During the darkness, federal regulations require the use of high-beam headlights unless meeting or following another vehicle within 500 feet, or, in the case of atmospheric conditions (such as fog), require the use of low beams.
8. Avoid looking into oncoming headlights
Don’t look directly into the headlights of oncoming traffic. Instead, look toward the center of your lane or toward the right-hand edge of the road. Avoid the glare of looking directly into oncoming headlights.
9. Stay alert for wildlife and livestock
You are more likely to encounter animals on the road in rural areas. Hitting an animal, no matter how small, can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
10. Watch out for drunk or sleepy drivers
Drunk and sleepy drivers are common at night, especially after midnight. Their ability to focus and react is diminished when fatigued or under the influence; it is up to you to watch out for such dangers.
11. Keep your vehicle and lights clean and working properly
It’s easier to see a vehicle that is clean and properly lighted. Make certain your headlights, reflectors, marker lights, clearance lights, taillights, identification lights and brake lights are clean and operable.
12. Don’t overdrive your headlights.
You have to see a hazard in order to react to it. Make sure your speed is commensurate with the lighted distance from your headlights.
Remember that you are the professional driver on the road. It is up to you to anticipate unexpected situations. Stay alert and watch out for other drivers on the road and hazards. Following these basic night driving tips can increase your margin of safety and decrease your chances of a night-time accident.
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