As the darker nights close in, here are our tips for keeping you and your vehicle safe on the road.
For several months of the year, it’s dark when you drive to work, and dark by the time you drive home. That means it’s important to look after your vehicle and to make sure it’s as safe and reliable as it can be for driving in darkness, which for many people can be an intimidating and challenging experience on four wheels. So, to make sure you’re prepared, check out our guide for some of the best tips on how to make driving in darkness a breeze, even on the chilliest winter days.
Now the clocks have gone back, there’s a strong likelihood you'll be driving in darkness during your working week, so it’s best to be as prepared as you can ahead of your drive.
Breaking down in the dark can not only be a stressful experience but a dangerous one if you’re not carrying the right kit in your car.
Some essential items to carry for winter driving and for getting around on four wheels in the hours of darkness are:
- A hi-vis vest for improved visibility to others when identifying car trouble at the roadside
- A torch and spare batteries
- Warning triangles
- Spare blankets, dry food and drinking water in case you have to wait for assistance in cold conditions in an isolated area.
For a full range of vehicle safety tools and equipment, check out our safety & security collection.
Check your vehicle’s condition
It sounds like a no-brainer, but before you leave on any journey short or long, give your car a ‘once over’ by checking that lights and indicators are working, as well as ensuring that your tyres are fully inflated and that the tread meets the 1.6mm legal requirement (this can be done by placing a 20p coin in the tyre indent on the outer ring of the tyre, to make sure the 20p’s outer band is fully covered by the tyre’s tread depth).
Make sure you’ve more fuel than you need for your planned journey ahead, should you end up taking a detour through unfamiliar and further away roads in the hours of darkness.
Keep the lights on
The last thing you want is to be penalised for a bulb outage in your front or rear lights, so it’s best to check they work before setting off on any journeys in the hours of darkness.
And if you do have a headlight out, you have to get it replaced immediately, as it could make your vehicle much less visible out on the road. What’s more, if you’re stopped by police while driving with a headlight or brake light out, you could be given a fine of £100.
Therefore, if possible, wait until daylight hours before travelling to get your defective light replaced.
Another great tip is to put your vehicle’s headlights on if you’re driving either an hour after daylight or an hour before sunset. Around these times of day, your visibility to other road users and pedestrians could be impaired by glare from the low angle of the sun.
If you’re looking for a replacement light, either to pick up from a store or online, Autoparts’ huge range of bulbs will help you get your car back on the road and looking brighter than ever.
Observe speed limits
Night-time driving means little or no natural light, so it’s harder to both see and be seen by other traffic on the road and also by pedestrians.
After the clocks go back, you’re more likely to be driving in darkness on a regular basis, so be respectful of local or national speed limits, which will be signposted whenever you enter a new stretch of road or into a populated area, whether a tiny hamlet or big-city suburb.
As well as being more easily seen as you approach at a reasonable speed, it will save you precious fuel or electric charge, and will give you more time to prepare for any unexpected on-road hazards, like standing water, black ice, or slippery on-road debris like spilled fuel or gatherings of autumn leaves.
Watch – or wash - that windscreen
While your vehicle’s windscreen may appear clean during the day, it might not look as streak- and smudge-free as you thought when looking through it at night. Why? Because street lighting can expose residues, some of which, if too large scale or greasy, could obscure your visibility, and are potentially dangerous. So before you leave, wipe the windscreen with some newspaper, or leave a clean sheen by using a clean cloth to apply a high-quality cleaner.
That way, you can look past a dirty windscreen and concentrate on the road ahead.
Another thing to watch out for at this time of year is, of course, overnight frost. Driving without a clear windscreen can be dangerous, leaving drivers with reduced visibility and increasing the risk of accidents. So, even if you’re in a hurry, it’s important to spend that extra time getting your car ready for the road.
However, when you de-ice your car, it’s important to it properly. If you use incorrect de-icing techniques, you may end up damaging your windscreen. One of the biggest mistakes you can do is use hot water, as this can cause the glass to crack. Meanwhile, using windscreen wipers to try and clear ice can damage your wiper blades.
This is why we recommend leaving yourself plenty of time before travelling in winter months. Use a proper car ice scraper so the windscreen doesn’t get damaged and get the car heating on so the ice will melt faster.
Another option is a de-icer spray. This can be sprayed on the night before to prevent overnight freezing, or it can be used in the morning so you can get away quicker.
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Image credit: Giuseppe Ramos via Vecteezy.com