We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Be careful on the roads when darkness falls

October 3, 2020


Traffic flows through wet conditions as dusk approaches on Gorge Road. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians should take steps to be ready for earlier darkness in the days ahead, writes Steve Wallace. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST


This is probably the last year North America will have to adhere to the fall back daylight savings time ritual we have all been subjected to for most of our lives. The crash rate for vehicles increases when we have any change from the norm. The original reason for daylight savings time was tied to the agriculture harvest. Today, it is only a reality because the North American governments could not get their collective acts together soon enough to rid of us the ridiculous ritual. Next year is slated to be the first time we will not have to change our clocks. Enough said!

Drivers will still have to become accustomed to the dramatic hour of darkness change. It seems odd that the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere is only about seven weeks away.

Which drivers are most affected by this time change? Younger drivers and older drivers have a greater degree of difficulty adjusting to the time change.

Many older drivers find it better to avoid the morning and afternoon rush hours. Being home before dark is a credo of those concerned with retaining their driving privilege and avoiding unnecessary risk. Older drivers do not see well in the dark. It is a simple fact of aging.

Younger drivers have their own unique condition. Many teens do not see well at night in certain circumstances. They do see well on well-lit streets like those on the Las Vegas strip. Teen myopia is a general term for the condition that affects them. They see well in total darkness with the light from their headlights, but it is the combination that trips them up. Surroundings in total darkness with intermittent streetlights has them not completely seeing the dark gaps between the streetlights.

Pedestrians wearing dark clothing cause concern for every driver. Fashion should never trump safety, but sadly it does in far too many instances. Many clothing manufacturers are putting reflective strips in the seams of their clothing to safeguard the wearers.

It is particularly important for all drivers to do a check of all the light systems on their vehicles.

Check to see that all lights are working and double check the aim angle of the headlights, both low and high beams. Professional drivers do this on a regular basis.

Drivers must be extra careful when encountering other traffic, such as bicycle riders. Many bike riders are using headlamps and other standard light systems to be easily identified by motor vehicle drivers. It is very frustrating for drivers who encounter bike riders with no light system.

Fall is a time when there are far more judicious riders than the fair-weather variety. Serious riders are generally well equipped for inclement weather riding.

Many newer vehicles come with automatic light systems. Sensors activate the lights at critical times. Drivers no longer actively engage the headlights or taillights at night on modern high-end vehicles.

Many drivers want their lights to be in the on position, even in daylight. This will make them more visible to others, travellers of all types. It not only makes them more visible, but also creates the illusion of being closer.

Drivers coming in the opposite direction are much less likely to pass others on a two-lane rural road when the oncoming vehicle has its lights on.

Illuminated taillights, during daylight hours, guard against the all too common rear-end collision. This same illusion of closeness has following drivers allowing more space between vehicles.

A disproportionate number of fatal crashes happen at night, particularly when there are radical temperature swings. It is that time of year again. Be careful!
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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