8 tips for driving in the dark as daylight savings time ends – don’t get caught out

Young man in a car driving in the evening

The end of October marks the end of Daylight Saving Time, bringing more darkness to our evenings as winter approaches with sunset expected as early as 4pm. Many commuters will therefore find themselves driving home from work in the dark.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), every year when the clocks are set back, there is an alarming increase in the incidents of fatalities and serious injuries among vulnerable road users.

Driving in the dark can pose many more risks than if you were to drive during the day, with issues such as visibility an issue. Driving experts from Iceland, Lotus Car Rental, who are no strangers to the dark in winter, have shared their top X tips for driving in the dark to ensure road users stay safe this winter.

1. Properly check over your vehicle

Before you hit the roads this winter, it’s vital that you give your car a once-over to ensure that everything is working properly. You should be checking things such as tyre pressure, engine oil levels, and the functionality of all your vehicle’s lights. While it’s essential to regularly check your vehicle throughout the year, this becomes especially crucial during the winter months when you encounter more hazardous conditions like reduced visibility and challenging weather patterns.

Driving at night without properly functioning front and rear lights is against the law. Therefore, it’s essential you perform routine checks to ensure that all your lights are in working condition. If you find a bulb requires replacing then you should do this as soon as possible to avoid being stopped by the police.

2. Use your lights responsibly

The way you use your lights is highly important when driving in the dark. Using your lights inappropriately can result in dazzling fellow drivers.

It is recommended to switch on your dipped headlights approximately one hour before sunset and leave them on for an hour after sunrise. This practice ensures that you remain consistently visible to fellow road users.

On poorly lit roads such as country roads, you should use your full beam, this will help you see the road layout more clearly. However, to avoid blinding fellow road users you should always switch from full beam to dipped headlights when other road users are driving towards you or you are approaching a car in front of you.

If an oncoming vehicle has failed to dip their headlights, you should slow down so you have better control of your vehicle and you can focus on the road in front. The glare from full-beam headlights can impair your vision and cause you to lose your bearings. You should avoid looking directly into the headlights and instead, look slightly left of the road, following the white line.

As well as external lights, it’s also important to use your interior lights so you don’t distract fellow drivers. When driving at night, you should keep your interior lights off and if you can, dim your dashboard lights too, some newer vehicles will do this for you automatically.

3. Keep a pair of sunglasses in your car

Even during winter, when you might not expect to need them, you should always have a pair of sunglasses readily available in your car. As the sun sets earlier during winter, it’s increasingly likely to find yourself driving whilst the sun is setting, which can create challenges due to glare. As well as having the sun visor down, keeping sunglasses within easy reach can significantly improve your visibility and comfort, particularly when driving into the blinding rays of a sunset.

4. Drive slower and with caution

Driving fast in the dark, as well as in winter weather with poor visibility, is extremely dangerous. The glare of headlights can make judging speed as well as reaction times a lot slower, it’s therefore recommended to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and always leave a big enough gap when pulling out onto the road. It can be easy to misjudge as a car might look like it is further away and is going slower than it is in the dark.

Cyclists, children, pedestrians wearing darker clothing and animals are vulnerable at this time of the year when it gets darker earlier in the evening. You should exercise extra caution, particularly in residential areas, and be vigilant for cyclists who may not be wearing reflective gear.

As Halloween approaches, there will be an increase in children on the streets, often dressed in darker costumes that make them less visible to drivers. Reduce your speed, especially near crossings, to allow for quicker reactions in case they step onto the road.

5. Avoid driving if you’re ill

Winter brings with it a rise in the prevalence of common cold and flu infections. The symptoms associated with these illnesses can have adverse effects on various aspects of your health, including hearing, and balance, and can lead to feelings of sluggishness and reduced reaction times all of which can significantly affect your ability to drive.

It’s crucial to be aware that many over-the-counter drugs commonly used to treat cold and flu symptoms, such as painkillers, can cause drowsiness and affect your driving capacity. Before getting behind the wheel, always read the medication instructions to understand potential side effects and activities to avoid while taking it such as driving. Failing to do so may result in a hefty fine, driving restrictions, and even in extreme cases jail time.

2 thoughts on “8 tips for driving in the dark as daylight savings time ends – don’t get caught out”

  1. Sunglasses are more important in the winter months than the summer. The sun barely gets above the top of the windscreen in a car in winter in commercial vehicles and most 4×4’s you will need those sunglasses. Also glare from the sun on wet roads after rain is treacherous too.

  2. Kevan Chippindall-Higgin

    Good old RoSPA. Not a dicky bird about idiots on bicycles, dressed in black without lights going the wrong way up a one way street. Nothing about the vast number of illegal e scooters, also without lights and not complying with construction and use regs. No, it is all our fault. We must have Superman vision and avoid hurting these idiots. The other warning when it was still dark, one council scooter rode straight off the pavement, against the lights and across traffic. I missed him, and he tried really hard to get himself run over by the car behind. The driver did not oblige him. If ever there was someone who was trying really hard to prove Darwinism, it was he.

    I have a full motorcycle licence and so can ride a council scooter without L plates. Of course, nobody with a real bike would want to fiddle about with these hateful little things, but I tried one for the experience. I could not get it started so gave up.

    More to the point, there is no requirement to prove possession of a CBT and none of them have L plates. But never mind. They are saving the planet (not) so they can do what they like.

    Unless and until the police get a grip on these dangerous machines, road fatalities will rise. That is fine by me. There are far too many stupid people out there and a bit of natural selection works for me.

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