Nighttime Driving Challenges for Transportation Workers

Nighttime Driving Challenges for Transportation Workers

There are some precautions transportation workers can take to keep themselves safe.

Driving at night can be challenging, with tiredness and lower light conditions making it more difficult to stay focused on the road ahead. But for transportation workers, driving at this time can be an unavoidable part of the role. As such, it’s useful to be aware of some of the challenges associated with nighttime driving, as well as a few top tips to help you to feel safe and confident being on the roads after dusk.

1. Tackle reduced visibility

Check your headlights to make sure they’re working as they should and make sure that your windscreen is completely clean and free from smears and streaks. If you tend to get tired and sore eyes from driving, try some cooling eye drops to stay alert and comfortable.

It's also sensible to choose your route carefully so that you can travel on well-lit roads. A good tip for dealing with oncoming headlight glare is to adjust your gaze and focus on the left of the road. 

2. Avoid fatigue

Research shows that one in five nighttime accidents are caused by tiredness, and the difficulties of fatigue are even harder to deal with at night. Firstly, if you are tired, never get in the driver's seat. If you absolutely need to drive, drink a coffee and immediately follow it with a 20-minute power nap. This is the length of time that the caffeine needs to give you an energy boost, so you should feel sharper and brighter afterwards.

But ideally you should be getting enough sleep ahead of your working day—whatever time it starts—so that when you get behind the wheel, you’re alert. And then aim for a 15-minute break for every three hours of driving you do and make sure you stop somewhere safe, such as services or a quiet side road. 

3. Avoid rush hour

Rush hour traffic is stressful at the best of times, but if it's during the dark, then it can become even more difficult. Tired and stressed drivers are more likely to make mistakes, such as speeding and slamming on their brakes, leading to accidents. The best advice is to avoid driving during rush hour altogether or to plan an alternative route which takes quieter roads where possible.

If you do need to drive in rush hour in the dark, then go slowly, stay as calm as possible and leave plenty of space between you and the car in front. Remember you may have to be more patient with other drivers. Allow faster-moving traffic to pass you easily, and be sure to stick to a safe speed, even if you’re in a rush. 

4. Watch out for construction work

Most modern construction work are well marked nowadays, but you'll still come across roadworks which haven't been properly secured or marked. When you see something you aren't sure about on the road, slow right down and be extremely careful. Look out for warning signs and temporary traffic lights, and take an extra moment or two to assess the situation if you can't immediately read it. Those extra moments could make all the difference to your safety, especially if there are temporary alternative road arrangements in place.

5. Use nighttime driving aids

Everyone will have something that helps them to stay alert while they are driving at night. For you, this might be quiet and soothing background music on the radio that allows you to stay calm. For others, it might be the help of an open window, a caffeinated drink and occasional snacks for a sugar boost. It’s also advisable to keep the cab at a lower temperature, since this will help you to stay more alert.

6. Be aware of FMCSA regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has two different sets of hours-of-service driving regulations, for both passenger-carrying vehicles and property-carriers. Property-carrying drivers are restricted to a maximum of 11 hours on the road after 10 consecutive hours rest. These standards are in place to keep yourself and your fellow road users safe at all times, so it’s always useful to familiarize yourself with the recommended guidelines.

The golden rule of nighttime driving is to ensure you’re well-rested. If you’re driving at night, take your time, reassess your routes, and use any props and techniques that you need to safeguard yourself and others on the road. It’s also important to take the time to perform a thorough safety check of your vehicle before setting off, looking specifically for any potential safety threats such as flat tires, leaks or faulty lights. With a bit of preparation and planning, you can feel confident and capable in the winter months ahead.

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