You are two to three times more likely to be involved in an accident when driving in the dark than when driving in daylight. In the dark, it is more difficult to detect pedestrians, cyclists and animals on or beside the road.
During evening and night, many drivers are tired, have reduced concentration and are less attentive. Drivers who are affected by alcohol or drugs are also more common after dark.
You are two to three times more likely to be involved in an accident when driving in the dark than when driving in daylight
When driving in the dark, it is also more difficult to judge the distance to and speed of other vehicles than it is in daylight. This can make it difficult, for example, to assess whether it is appropriate to overtake another vehicle or to enter a country road.
In order to minimise the risks, it is important that you are aware of the increased risks of driving in the dark and that you learn how to use the car's lights properly.
When driving in the dark you should normally position the car closer to the middle of the carriageway – that is, on the left-hand side of the lane – than when driving in daylight. This reduces the risk of hitting something or someone on the side of the road. It also gives you a little more time and space to act if, for example, a deer runs across the road in front of your car.
If the road has several lanes in the same direction and you drive in a lane that does not adjoin the roadside, you do not have to position the car closer to the middle of the carriageway.
When driving in the dark you should normally position the car on the left-hand side of the lane
You must turn on the parking lights when you have parked or stopped on a road with poor visibility or insufficient lighting, so that other road users are able to see your car.
As a rule, you may only stop or park on the right-hand side of the road in the direction of travel. If you park on the wrong side of the road you risk confusing drivers travelling in the opposite direction. However, if the street is one-way or if there are tram tracks in the right-hand lane you may park on the left-hand side.
When you drive in the dark with full beam headlights and approach a hilltop you should dip the headlights for a short while. When you dip the headlights it becomes easier to detect the silhouettes of pedestrians at the hilltop, as well as the headlights of oncoming vehicles on the other side of the hilltop.
If there are no oncoming vehicles, you should immediately switch back to full beam headlights as they provide better visibility.
Dip the headlights for a short while before hilltops in order to detect pedestrians and oncoming vehicles more easily
When driving in the dark you should use full beam headlights as often as possible. However, they must not be used when meeting another vehicle, when driving close enough behind another vehicle so that the driver could be dazzled, or when you risk dazzling the operator of a train, tram or ship.
When you dip the headlights your visibility is reduced, and pedestrians, cyclists, obstacles and animals next to the road are much more difficult to detect. Always scan the road and roadside as far ahead of the car as possible before dipping the headlights.
Do you see the pedestrians walking on the road?
Before meeting an oncoming vehicle on roads with one lane in each direction, you should position the car a little closer to the middle of the lane, but still at a safe distance from the roadside. If the road is narrow you also have to adapt your speed.
Do not fix your eyes on the oncoming vehicle – look far ahead, toward the right side of the road, so that you have an opportunity to act if an obstacle appears. Switch back to full beam headlights again in the moment of passing, as soon as you no longer risk dazzling the driver of the oncoming vehicle.
The illustration shows approximately when to turn on the full beam headlights again, after meeting an oncoming vehicle in the dark. The goal is to turn on the full beam headlights as early as possible, without dazzling the driver of the oncoming vehicle.
There are no rules that say exactly at what distance you should dip the headlights, it depends on the situation. However, you must dip the headlights just before the oncoming vehicle, or vehicle in front, is so close that the driver can be dazzled.
It can be difficult to determine at what distance to dip the headlights. One way of thinking is to wait until your car's headlights and the oncoming vehicle's headlights together illuminate the road section between you.
You also know that it is time to dip the headlights if you are dazzled by the oncoming vehicle's headlights or if the driver of oncoming vehicle dips their headlights.
Always dip the headlights as soon as you are dazzled by an oncoming vehicle's headlights
If you meet an oncoming vehicle on a left-hand bend, you can usually keep the full beam headlights on a little while longer before dipping them, as the light will not hit the oncoming vehicle right away.
If you meet a truck, bus or other type of high vehicle on a hilltop you must dip the headlights as soon as you see the identification lights on the vehicle's roof. The driver of such a vehicle is seated very high and would be dazzled if you were to wait to dip the headlights until you saw the vehicle's regular headlights.
Always dip the headlights if you see a vehicle's identification lights appear on the other side of a hilltop
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When overtaking in the dark you should also try to keep the full beam headlights on for as long as possible, and scan the road as far ahead of the car as possible, before dipping the headlights.
When you are close enough to the vehicle you are going to overtake that your full beam headlights hit it, it is time to dip your headlights. Switch back to full beam headlights again just before the moment of overtaking, approximately when the front to your car is about to pass the rear of the vehicle you are overtaking and you are no longer at risk of dazzling the driver.
The illustration shows approximately when to turn on the full beam headlights again, when overtaking another vehicle in the dark. The goal is to turn on the full beam headlights as early as possible, without dazzling the driver of the vehicle you are overtaking.
If you are dazzled by glare from the headlights of an oncoming vehicle your night vision will be impaired for about one minute. Always avoid looking at the headlights of oncoming vehicles or at any other strong light sources. This might be harder than it sounds as our eyes are drawn to brightness. Also, do whatever you can to not dazzle other drivers.
When driving in densely built-up areas in the dark, it is the mix and high frequency of oncoming vehicles, street lamps and reflective windows that cause dazzle. In cities with a lot of traffic you are sometimes constantly dazzled.
When driving outside of densely built-up areas in the dark, it is mainly oncoming vehicles that cause dazzle. The risk of being dazzled is higher on roads without street lighting.
If you are dazzled it takes about one minute before your ability to see in the dark is somewhat restored again
If your windshield is scratched or chipped, this could impair your vision and cause dangerous dazzle from the sun and the headlights of oncoming cars.
In addition to the increased risk of being dazzled, windshield chips can also lead to larger cracks forming in the windshield. The risk of this happening is especially high during winter.
Always have windshield chips repaired as soon as possible.
The effects of fatigue are very powerful and can be devastating when combined with driving. For this reason driving when fatigued is prohibited and the law equates driving when fatigued with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The risk of falling asleep behind the wheel is highest late at night and early in the morning, especially between 03:00-05:00. At this time body functions are reduced – metabolic activity, body temperature and blood pressure all drop to their lowest levels of the day.
Do not drive if you are too tired
As previously mentioned, you are two to three times more likely to be involved in an accident when driving in the dark than when driving in daylight. Almost one third of all traffic accidents in which someone is injured occur in the dark.
The biggest risks with driving in the dark are that:
Almost half of all traffic accidents involving pedestrians occur in the dark and almost half of all fatal accidents involving pedestrians occur during the period November-January. December is the single most dangerous month for pedestrians.
Almost one third of all accidents between motor vehicles and pedestrian accidents occur at or near pedestrian crossings – a place where pedestrians should be protected and able to feel safe.
When driving in densely built-up areas in the dark, you must remember that many pedestrians do not wear reflectors but believe that they are clearly visible anyway. Drive extra carefully in such areas – especially at or near pedestrian crossings.
You have to be extra careful when driving in densely built-up areas in the dark
As a driver you are obligated to maintain a speed that allows you to stop before any obstacles that may occur.
In other words, if you approach a pedestrian crossing and it is dark (or slippery, or foggy, or snowing heavily etc.) you must adapt your speed to be sure of being able to stop before the crossing if required.
The distance at which you are able to detect a pedestrian beside the road depends on, among other things, which lights you use, the model and condition of the headlights, the weather and how the pedestrian is dressed.
Below you can see at approximately what distance you are able to detect a pedestrian under different circumstances.
Full beam headlights illuminate the road much better than dipped headlights. When full beam lights are on you can detect pedestrians at significantly longer distances.
Full beam headlights
Pedestrians wearing dark clothing and no reflectors can be very difficult to detect in the dark
Visibility is reduced if: