July 23, 9 p.m. You put your youngest in the backseat, doing up his seatbelt and tucking his blanket with him. You get behind the wheel and put the car in reverse—you’re at last ready for the 12-hour drive to Virginia. It’s finally vacation time! The afternoon was productive in making the last preparations for the next two weeks. The children’s suitcase is full—so much so that it’s spilling into yours. The grass is cut, and your sister has the house key; she’ll be coming to bring the mail in and water the plants. You made it to the pharmacy for last-minute purchases, such as the jar of sunscreen Justin knocked over earlier. The siesta you had planned after lunch was short-lived, but happily you’re now on your way to sun and sea!
Night driving is an option that many people choose, especially at vacation time. Sometimes it’s unavoidable when you have long distances to cover, or it’s an attractive option when you want to make the most of your vacation time, to arrive early in the morning and avoid daytime traffic. Travelling at night is indeed practical, but you have to adapt your driving. According to Transport Canada, driving at night causes 40% of deadly accidents on the road, while it represents just a quarter of road travel. The following are a few tips for your long road trips.
This may seem obvious, but we all have a tendency to overlook it. A good sleep is essential before driving for long periods, to ensure you stay alert throughout your journey. Transport Canada also found that 20% of deadly accidents are due to fatigue. Therefore, don’t hesitate to share the driving with your passengers. It’s recommended that you stop every two hours to stretch your legs and clear your head. While heavy meals tend to make you sleepy, light snacks and fruit, as well as drinking water throughout your journey, help you stay awake.
Adjust your lights
It’s true that the headlights on a car can never replace daylight, but when they’re well adjusted they can improve your night vision considerably. At night, it’s harder to perceive depth and movement than during the day; it’s therefore more difficult to judge distances, among other things. High beams work for up to 150 metres, while low beams light your way from 45 to 70 metres ahead. Proper positioning of your low beams can prevent an accident—don’t hesitate to have a professional adjust them!
Since it’s more difficult to judge distances in the dark and your field of vision is reduced, you’ll have more time to react if you reduce your speed. You should also keep more distance between you and the vehicle ahead. Speed limits are based on dry, clear, well-lit roads—so adapt accordingly.
Clean your vehicle
Obviously, a dirty windshield hampers vision—but at night, even more so. If you know you’ll be driving after dark, don’t forget to wash your windshield—inside and out. And here’s a little trick: use newspaper to do so—it will remove residues and reduce glare from the window. If a dirty windshield reduces your vision, you can be sure it impedes your headlights as well—up to 80% of their efficiency.
However long you’ll be on the road, nighttime driving requires that you adapt since the environment and conditions are not what you’re used to. Obviously, these tips shouldn’t replace a professional inspection, which we recommend you do before a long trip, to avoid nasty surprises in unfamiliar territory.
With such tips and good preparation, you can start your vacation on the right foot. You’ll leave the house with peace of mind, the children will be asleep before you leave the driveway, and your car will be happily loaded and ready to come home full of good memories.
On that note, the Lareau team wishes you a beautiful summer and safe travels!