By Priscilla Petersen, Public Affairs Manager for Southeast Kansas
It happens every winter: mornings have less sunlight and darkness comes on much more quickly in the late afternoon. Going home from work or school on a weekday, drivers can view the low-hanging sun slipping below the horizon. The winter solstice will occur Dec. 21, ushering in the shortest day of the year — and the longest night.
Darkness can affect a driver’s depth perception, color perception and peripheral vision. On top of those problems, staring into oncoming headlights can even cause temporary blindness. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the risk of fatal crashes triples at night. The NSC recommends that drivers take the following steps to better cope with driving in the dark:
- Properly align your vehicle’s headlights and check to make sure they are clean.
- Dim your dashboard lights
- Look away from oncoming lights
- Make sure you are wearing anti-reflective glasses.
- Check to make sure that your windshield is clean and free of streaks.
- Slow down! Your visibility is limited to approximately 500 feet with high-beam headlights and 250 feet with normal beams.
Always run your headlights in the early morning and early evening, even if there is some light in the sky. Your vehicle is equipped with headlights not only to help you see the roadway, but to help other drivers see you.
Don’t trail others too closely; increase your distance whenever its dark out. Make sure your bright beams aren’t on when you are following traffic or encountering oncoming vehicles — turn them to low beams. If you are in an urban area watch out for pedestrians, especially around school zones, as darkness reduces their visibility. As always, put away your phones and avoid other distractions.
Finally, during this holiday season do not drink and drive. Please remain vigilant and keep an eye out for others who might be driving impaired. Use extra caution to help yourself and fellow drivers get home safely to snuggle in during the man remaining deep, dark winter evenings.