Bright ideas for driving at night

Night driving

The third week in September marked the official start of fall and noticeably shorter days. That meant many of us are now driving in the dark more often.

Here are some bright ideas for driving at night.

Bob tells me he used to be a safety committee member in industry. His favourite mnemonic was “KBL”—Keys in the ignition, seat Belt on, Lights on. Having accomplished that, you were now ready to consider putting your vehicle in motion.

KBL was always the routine, regardless of whether it was day or night.

When is the last time you checked all of your vehicle's lights to make sure that they were working? If you have to pause and think for a moment, it is likely well past the time to check again.

Now that we have the lamps lit, there are other considerations for proper night vision.

Are all the lenses clear, undamaged, not full of condensation and aimed properly? Opaque or yellowed headlight lenses or lenses coated with dirt or condensation don’t transmit the light that you need to see with properly and blind other drivers with glare.

Both vertical and horizontal aim is important to focus your headlights where the light is needed. Incorrect alignment means less light for you to see by, and more glare to affect the vision of other drivers around you.

Unless you know what you are doing, this is probably a vehicle maintenance task you should have a professional do for you.

My Twitter account was well populated with messages about lights last year at this time.

The reminders were for those of us whose vehicles did not have daytime running lights that turned on all the lights. Some drivers would see the headlight illumination and not remember that the back of their vehicle remained dark until they turned on all the lights themselves.

A nice convenience in some newer vehicles are lighting systems that turn all the lights on automatically when it is appropriate. Drivers no longer have to do it themselves, unless the light switch is turned to “off” instead of “auto.” The KBL routine would have you check to make sure the switch is set to “auto” rather than turning the lights on.

Beware what you spend your money on if you are considering a lighting upgrade on your own. Illegal products abound on store shelves and are sold over the Internet.

Some of the legal choices are not what they seem either. Osram Sylvania was the subject of a class action lawsuit in the U.S. over its Silver Star headlight bulbs. The suit alleged that the company rigged the comparison with standard bulbs to influence consumers.

Also, don’t reduce the effectiveness of your vehicle's lights by trying to see through a dirty windshield. Keep the windshield clean, inside and out. A new pair of windshield wiper blades might be in order to help with this.

Some paper towels and a spray bottle containing windshield washer fluid could be a wise addition to your night driving kit along with a spare bulb or two.

You should also increase your following distance by another second or two. You don't see as well at night and the extra space will give you more time to anticipate and avoid problems.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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