Night Driving Isn't Easy – Especially for New Drivers

A new driver’s license is a BIG milestone – not only for teens, but also for parents. With a license, teens have a newfound sense of freedom as they no longer have to rely on adults to drive them to school, to sports, or to socialize with friends. However, with this freedom also comes responsibility – a responsibility to drive safely and stay focused while on the road.

For any driver, attention should always be on the road. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when teens are faced with all of the distractions that accompany driving. From smartphones and texting, to driving with friends or eating a snack on the way to practice, there are endless opportunities for a driver’s attention to be diverted away from the road.

Now, add darkness to the equation. These distractions don’t go away when the sun sets. In fact, the onset of darkness brings even more distractions, something that new and inexperienced drivers often don’t realize. Depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision are all worse when driving in low-light conditions, giving drivers less time to react to road hazards. These factors can significantly impact driver awareness and safety.

How can dangers of driving at night be lowered? Properly working headlights can go a long way to reducing some of these concerns. Changing to better, farther down the road headlights can take it one step further.

Premium headlights put light farther down the road and cast a whiter light, which improves contrast and offers greater sideroad clarity. Drivers have more time to distinguish objects or hazards in the roadway and take appropriate action. This cushion of extra time is important for all drivers, but it is especially critical for younger drivers who will likely be facing these unexpected situations for the first time. At highway speeds there isn’t much room for error, and even small increases in visibility make a difference, every foot counts.

Even with premium headlights, nighttime drivers should remember to:

  • Slow down to compensate for limited visibility and unexpected hazards
  • Don’t follow the car ahead too closely, permit adequate room to brake safely
  • Look away from oncoming lights or towards the painted lines on the side of the road to avoid glare
  • Dim dashboard and other interior lights
  • Keep windshield clean and streak-free

April is both National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an effort by the National Safety Council</a> to recognize and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving; and National Car Care Month, a semi-annual initiative by the Car Care Council to educate motorists on the importance of regular vehicle care. It’s also a good time for drivers to check vehicle headlights for brightness and visibility, and to remind new drivers about the importance of staying focused on the road.

The following tips will help drivers prepare for the road ahead and improve overall vehicle safety year-round:

Replace Before Burnout

Many drivers don’t realize that headlights dim over time, up to the 20 – 30 percent (based on bulb type) over the life of the vehicle, and should be replaced before they burn out. Dim headlights put less light down the road and can severely impact a driver’s ability to see down the road, ultimately affecting the time they have to react to obstacles. If a vehicle owner cannot remember the last time headlights were changed and the car is over 3 years old, it’s probably time to replace them.

Always Replace in Pairs

A recent SYLVANIA Automotive survey found that the majority of drivers replace headlights individually, as needed. However, many drivers don’t know that it’s recommended to replace headlights in pairs, since they are on the same amount of time and wearing out at the same rate. Since headlights dim over time, a new bulb paired with an old bulb creates an uneven field of vision for drivers, which can be a major distraction on the road.

Headlight Restoration as an Option

The average age of vehicles on the road today is 11 years. Many of these vehicles have faded, cloudy plastic headlight lenses. This cloudiness, caused by degradation from the sun, reduces and diffuses the light going through the lenses, making it difficult to see when driving in the dark. Consider purchasing a DIY restoration kit to help restore clarity and remove the hazy yellow appearance on headlight lenses. Proper kits provide a UV Block Clear Coat, which protects headlights from future UV ray damage. A good restoration kit can enable up to three times more light to shine on the road from behind the same, once cloudy, headlight lens.

Properly Aim Your Headlights

It’s important to properly align and aim your headlights to ensure that the light is projecting down the road, and not into the eyes of oncoming drivers or down at the road giving no downroad light. If your headlights' aim is off, it can drastically decrease nighttime visibility impacting driver safety or the safety of other drivers on the road. This simple DIY fix can make a tremendous difference and improve safety.

Headlights can be a first line of defense when it comes to safe driving habits. If you can’t see it, you can’t react. And while properly working, premium headlights won’t stop distractions, they do provide drivers of all skill levels with improved visibility and more time to react to objects or hazards in the road.


Written by Brian Noble, Marketing Manager, Sylvania Automotive