How to Stay Alert Driving at Night

Have you ever found yourself closing your eyes behind the wheel, when you really needed to get to your destination? Assuming you have not been using alcohol or other drugs (including prescription drugs), and that you have been getting enough sleep, you can prolong your drive time by reducing eyestrain. This article will guide you through the steps on how to make those extra miles safely.


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    You will need an extra sweatshirt or other bulky article of clothing, and a broad-brimmed hat. Straw hats are good. Fisherman's hats also work.
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    Find the dimmer switch on your dashboard. It is usually located near the headlight switch. Turn the dimmer down until the dashboard lights appear significantly less bright than traffic markers reflecting your headlights. Do not turn the dimmer down so low that you can't see the dashboard.
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    Place the sweatshirt on the dashboard in such a way that it obscures the bottom 10% of the view. This will reduce the strobe light effect of dashed lane lines, reflectors, and other traffic markers within fifteen feet of your headlights. You will still be able to see these markers clearly at greater distances, where they appear less bright, are less distracting, and where you have time to react.
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    Adjust your outside mirrors downward, so that they afford only a view of the pavement. This seems counter-intuitive, and is nearly useless in daylight, but at night, you can judge the proximity of overtaking vehicles by the reflection of their headlights on the pavement. This keeps the direct glare of headlights out of your eyes.
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    Don't go too fast. Keep under 60 mph (100 km/h). Don't use cruise control; any function that is automated eliminates a level of driver awareness. Use your low-beam headlight setting. If vehicles lurk behind you at the same speed, tap the brake and get them to pass you. Don't go too slow, either. Creepers have as many accidents as speeders.
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    Pull the hat brim down low on your forehead. When an oncoming vehicle approaches, nod your head forward until the vehicle's lights are partially eclipsed by the brim. As the vehicle gets closer, tilt your head toward the oncoming traffic lane, so that you have a better view of your own lane. You should still be able to see the lane markers. Note: trying to look through a hat brim also causes eyestrain, though not as much as staring into headlights. If there is no oncoming traffic, tilt your head back for a clear view of the horizon.


  • On well-lighted urban roadways, these instructions are less important, because headlight glare tends not to be much brighter than ambient light. Avoid using the hat-brim trick where pedestrians are present.
  • If possible, drive on an Interstate or other divided highway. Wide medians reduce headlight glare.
  • Try to eliminate light sources from within the vehicle. If your passenger must read or navigate, a flashlight or book light will be less distracting than the vehicle's dome light. All video screens should be in the back seat.


  • Know when it is time to quit. There are some times when these tricks simply won't keep you awake. Sleepy drivers are every bit as dangerous as drunk drivers. Don't become a statistic.
  • Be extra watchful for deer and other large animals.
  • Avoid caffeine. It will not keep you awake. It will just make your eyes more sensitive to light. Furthermore, large amounts of caffeine will interfere with sleep patterns, making night driving even more difficult. The same goes for all stimulants.

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Categories: Defensive Driving Skills & Safety