We’ve been getting quite a few queries on driving at night in India, and what precautions one should take. Indian highways have improved to quite an extent and in fact, if you have the stamina for it, night driving often saves a lot of time when doing long distances.
Unfortunately most other road users are not really courteous and driving at night involves lots of hidden dangers in India – trucks without tail-lights, trucks with poorly functioning headlamps, cyclists, two-wheelers without lights and drivers with multiple lights dazzling you are all commonly encountered on Indian highways.
If you have to drive at night, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you have a safe journey. Also read: 10 tips to survive Indian highways
Ensure adequate light
Before you set off on a night journey, make sure your car has proper lights. Most cars these days come with halogen bulbs, but not all cars headlights are properly focussed. In some cars the stock 55/60 watt headlamps are simply not bright enough for a highway trip. Get your headlamps checked and focussed properly at the service station. Or consider installing additional driving lights or upgrading the headlamps to better powered ones. Beware that some of these conversions are not legal. No light should be higher than 1.5 metres from the ground (roof-mounted lights are illegal). Also read: 12 retro-fitted accessories to upgrade your car
Also ensure that your brake lamps, tail-lamp and turn indicators are working, as these are really crucial at night.
Keep windscreen clean
Keep your windscreen clean, stop periodically in your journey and clean it if you have to. Ensure your windshield washer is functioning and is filled with water. To clean your windshield thoroughly, you could carry a microfiber towel, some water and some newspaper. First wipe the windshield with a soaking wet microfiber towel and once it is reasonably clean use a sheet of folded newspaper to mop it up – there is something about newsprint that gives windshields a magical shine and clarity. Also read: Why some common car modifications are illegal
Keep headlamps on low-beam
If you are driving on roads that has traffic and in urban areas, always keep your headlamps on low beam only to avoid dazzling other drivers. If you approach another vehicle from behind, dip your lights so that the driver in front is not dazzled. Use your high-beam only when you find the surroundings too dark and there are no other vehicles around. But as soon as you see an approaching car get within 100 metres of you, dip your lights and switch back to high-beam only as the other car passes you. Also read: Tips to handle city traffic
Stay within the light zone
One major problem a driver faces while driving at night is the limited range of light. You need to keep your speed to within the range that your headlamps reach. This will ensure you have adequate stopping distance in case of an emergency. At night some obstacles may not be easily visible, such as unmarked speed breakers or potholes. Give yourself room to manoeuvre.
Avoid getting dazzled by lights
Like we mentioned, not everyone is as courteous as you on the highway. There will be plenty of vehicles approaching you with high beam as well as multiple additional lights that can blind you. In such situations, slow down and look to your left (in fact, dipping your beam would help, as in most cars the dipped beam shifts more toward the left). Don’t look directly at the oncoming vehicle, instead just keep it in your peripheral vision, and look toward the left of the road. Sometimes just flashing your lights a couple of times may alert the other driver that he’s on high beam and is dazzling you, but mostly people don’t really care. Also read: Guide to daytime running lamps
Adjust your mirrors
It’s not just oncoming cars that can dazzle you. Vehicles from behind can also dazzle you with their headlights reflecting of your mirrors. To avoid this, if you car has a day-night interior mirror, then flip it to the night position (if it’s a prismatic mirror, although some cars now have automatic day-night mirrors). If you don’t have one, then adjust the interior mirror in such a way that you only see the top of your rear windshield and not the whole road behind you. You will need to adjust the outside rear view mirrors as well, dropping them down slightly in such a way, that you can still see traffic behind you, but the reflection of headlamps from vehicles behind you does not dazzle you.
Watch out for dark threats
One big hassle on Indian highways at night is the menace of laden trucks, tractor trailers, cyclists or bullock carts with no tail-lamps. Depending on the kind of area you are travelling in, stay alert for these. If the road is dark, use your high-beam to get more range. This will ensure you see some of these dark threats earlier.
Stopping safely at night
If you have to stop to take a break, make sure it’s in a safe area. Pull off the highway, keep your parking lamps on and put on your hazard lamps to alert other drivers of your presence. Don’t stop on a bend or blind curve – choose a relatively straight and wide stretch to stop, where the vehicle is completely off the highway. If you can, choose a well-illuminated area to stop in the interest of safety, not just of the vehicle, but personal safety too in these uncertain times.
Hill driving at night
Driving in the mountains at night is thrilling and relatively easier than the day too. The reason is one can see the light of oncoming vehicles around a bend at night, while in the day one needs to take more care while overtaking in the mountains or going around a bend. However, keep an eye out for rocks and stones left by truckers on the road. Also read: Guide to driving in the mountains
Stay hydrated, stay awake
Unless you are used to it, driving at night can also induce drowsiness as the human body’s normal Circadian rhythm sets in and you may begin to feel sleepy. Ensure you carry enough fluids and do stop for a caffeinated beverage or two if you need it. Also read: How to prevent drowsiness while driving
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