At age 32, I leased my first car. It was a beautiful plum-colored 1996 Pontiac Grand Am equipped with many convenient features, including a 150.0-hp, 2.4-liter, 4 Cylinder Engine, sun-roof, CD player, leather interior, and more. Driving it was effortless and exciting. If possible, I would have driven it to the Moon and back!
Back then, driving safely at all times of the day was not a problem for me. For work, it was required during the day, and most weekend late nights, I happily drove it home alone from a party or other social event. This newfound freedom to drive myself to and from anywhere was very liberating. I also enjoyed picking up family, friends, or co-workers in my new car to hang out together. I have also driven to and from various States, where the road trip was a wonderful experience to cherish.
Previously, I was heavily dependent upon hailing a taxi or sharing a ride with a friend or family member to get around. If I was ready to leave an event and rode with someone else, I had to leave when they were ready to go. Equally, if they wanted to leave and I was not ready, I had to leave when they did. Oftentimes it was my only way back home. Taxicab services greatly assisted me with navigating to and fro, but they have also proved to be unreliable. Unfortunately, I was inconvenienced on several occasions because of their untimeliness in accommodating me.
Currently, I continue to drive a car I absolutely love with every modern amenity bell and whistle available. Today, with slight issues with my eyesight, heavy traffic jams, road construction, road rage, and increased car-jacking incidents, I drive when it’s absolutely necessary. Suddenly, with all of the above conditions, driving in the dark for me became frightening on any one-way trip over 20 miles. My driving skills had slipped a bit while night driving. If the road was not brightly lit, I misjudged distance and objects on the road. On a pitch-dark back road, oncoming high beam headlights have contributed to this. Wearing sunglasses reduced the glare, and fortunately, no incidents have occurred where it caused me harm.
So, how do you know if driving at night is still safe for you? As a senior, we are faced with many important, life-altering questions like this where our safety may become compromised. Additionally, if you have experienced any of the aforementioned road conditions, especially at night, or if you have had a car accident, you understand why this is an important topic to explore.
If you must drive at night, please consider these tips in improving your driving skills. I have encountered many of the following scenarios and found them to improve my night driving tremendously. These work during the day also.
Here are a few tips to follow to achieve this:
Maintain A Safe Distance Between Yourself and Other Drivers
If the vehicle driving in front of you comes to an abrupt stop, you should be back far enough to have time to react. Suggested distance should be at least 3 seconds of space between you and the vehicle in front of you at a minimum during dry weather conditions. Use a fixed object such as a tree or road sign to regulate this. When the car’s rear bumper in front of you crosses that object, begin to count 1001, 1002, 1003. If you don’t make it to 3 by the time your front bumper crosses the fixed object, you need to increase your following distance.
Travel On Familiar Roads
Are you more confident driving on roads you’re very familiar with? If so, this greatly decreases your chances of being involved in an accident.
Be Open About Your Driving Ability
Honestly, are you running red lights, stop signs, and unable to see posted road signs? The truth will set you free from stressful nighttime driving if you’re no longer participating in these dangerous driving activities.
Stay Alert When Traffic Patterns Change
Do you notice lane changes or traffic patterns such as road construction? Slow down and pay attention to road signs and other warnings on the road.
Slow Down and Take Your Time
Pay attention to speed limits and allow some extra travel time. This will reduce the stress of driving at night.
Keep Up With Regular Vehicle Maintenance
Are your lights and turn signals working properly? When was the last time you had your engine serviced or oil changed? Is your tire pressure good? Are you checking up on your lights and mirrors? Minor maintenance greatly impacts your safety while driving at night.
Be Sure All Mirrors Are Visible and Clean
Wipe down all vehicle mirrors to see clearly through them. Adjust all mirrors so that you can see all sides of the vehicle!
Schedule Regular Eye Exams
Make regular appointments for eye exams to ensure your precious eyes remain fit for nighttime driving. Your physician can recommend safety tips based on your current eyesight condition. You can even try transition glass or blue light glasses.
Take Driving Courses
A driving course will help revive your knowledge of the rules of the road and make you feel more confident behind the wheel of your vehicle at night. Driving courses are available through a number of organizations, including the local Department of Motor Vehicles.
By following these safety tips, you should feel more confident about driving at night. Practice until you have mastered them. If you’re not there yet, be patient and ask a family member, trusted friend or hail a driving service like Lyft or Uber to drive you around. Most folks I know, including myself, have downloaded these apps on their smartphones.
Once downloaded, open the app, type in the desired address, select the type of ride you want to take (single, shared, or luxury), see the cost, and confirm. You’ll be able to see where your driver is and when they will arrive. Each has its own pricing terms, safety features, rewards, and subscription options.
All the best!
Retired at age 57, living in suburban Chicago, Tracy has started a new chapter as a writer of novels and the president of an active book club.