a car pulls out of a driveway at night

To drive there tonight, or wait until the morning? It’s a situation drivers have found themselves in many times. Reduced visibility, greater risk of drowsiness, there are plenty of reasons to take extra precautions on the road until the sun rises. But for those who want to get there tonight, here are seven tips for staying safe while driving at night.

Is driving at night more dangerous?

Even after the advent of modern vehicles with headlights, many drivers still prefer to travel during the day, and with good reason. For starters, we’re diurnal animals, meaning we naturally prefer to be awake during the day and asleep at night. That means we’re more likely to be drowsy when behind the wheel after dark. Combine that with our relatively poor night vision and the possibility of headlight glare and it makes sense why drivers need to be more careful at night.

And the statistics show night driving is dangerous, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.1

But, with the appropriate precautions, you can make night driving a lot safer.

Tips for driving at night

Driving a car at night doesn’t have to be intimidating. Follow these tips to reduce the risk and drive with greater confidence after the sun has gone down.

1. Avoid driving while tired

The less rested you are, the less attentive you’ll be while driving. If you feel your eyelids growing heavy and your attention span waning, it’s time to take action. Caffeine, listening to music, or getting some fresh air by opening a window can all help increase alertness. But if nothing is working, it’s important to be honest with yourself. Instead of taking a risk to push through the fatigue, find somewhere safe to stop and rest. Whether it’s just a couple of hours to recharge or a full night’s sleep, don’t be afraid to give yourself the time you need.

2. Try to steer clear of two-lane highways

You’re driving down a two-lane highway at night, not another car in sight, you go around a turn, and suddenly you’re being blinded by a pair of high beams. That’s the risk that comes with driving on two-lane highways at night. Try to avoid the glare from oncoming headlights by sticking to roads with multiple lanes, if possible. You can minimize that blinding effect by simply moving over to the rightmost lane.

3. Clean your windshield and mirrors

Visibility is a huge part of safety when driving at night. The better you can see, the safer you’ll be. This means ensuring your windshield and mirrors are all clean and clear. A dirty windshield scatters light and worsens the effects of glare, so don’t be afraid to hit the windshield cleaner as often as you need.

4. Modify interior car lights

Light sources inside your car can create a distraction as your eyes move between the road outside and the dashboard. To counteract this, keep unnecessary interior lights off and dim the brightness of your display lights. You should still be able to see important features like your speedometer without risking distraction from excessive light.

5. Adjust your headlights

Your headlights are the star of the show when driving at night, so be sure they’re ready to perform. The protective plastic on them should be kept clean and the bulbs within should be bright enough to do their job. The angle your headlights are facing also matters. Too low and you won’t be able to see what’s ahead, but too high and you risk impairing the vision of oncoming traffic. If you aren’t able to adjust your headlights on your own, a dealership or auto shop can help.

6. Use high beams when appropriate

Properly functioning high beams dramatically improve visibility and can create much safer driving conditions, especially in poorly lit areas like back roads. But the power of these brighter lights can easily blind other drivers coming in the opposite direction, so switch to low beams when you spot oncoming traffic.

7. Slow down when driving at night

When you consider the reduced visibility and increased likelihood of encountering drivers who aren’t giving the road their fullest attention, it’s easy to understand why you should drive slower at night. Driving slower is the best way to ensure you have as much time as possible to react to anything unexpected, whether that’s a deer in the road or you’re approaching a stop sign.

Be extra mindful of your speed if road conditions are wet or icy. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends reducing your speed by one-third during rainy weather and one-half for snow.2 You should also watch your speed while approaching a vehicle going slower than you.

There should be about a three-second difference between you and any car in front of you. That means if the car in front passes a telephone pole, three seconds should elapse before you pass it. This rule applies at all times of the day, but it’s particularly important at night.

While it’s clear that driving a car at night poses increased safety risks, knowing what to watch out for and being proactive will help keep you safe. Plan your route, make smart decisions, and follow the tips in this article to make the driving experience a safer one for you and everyone else on the road.

To ensure you are always covered when it comes to keeping you and your vehicle safe, learn more about auto insurance from Nationwide.

[1] “Nighttime Driving,” aaam.org/nighttime-driving/ (Accessed May 5, 2023)

[2] “CMV Driving Tips - Too Fast for Conditions,” fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-too-fast-conditions (Accessed July 12, 2023)

The information included here is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided. Nationwide and the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2023 Nationwide