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Night driving tips for teens

It isn't surprising that most accidents happen at night. What may be surprising is just how dangerous it can be for inexperienced drivers. According to data compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, nearly 60 percent of all fatalities in teen car crashes occur between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., despite significantly fewer drivers being out on the road. While everyone has a greater risk of crashing at night, the risk is higher for teenagers.

In this blog, another in an extended series exploring the major causes of car accidents involving teen drivers, we will discuss nighttime driving for teens and provide tips on how to reduce the risk of an accident.

The reason nighttime driving is dangerous

You can probably think of several reasons why it might be more difficult to drive at night, lack of visibility being the most obvious. Despite the common-sense implications regarding the risk of nighttime driving, however, you might be surprised what factors contribute to the increased risk. These include:

  • High-visibility headlights: An increasing number of cars have high-visibility headlights, which can blind drivers in oncoming vehicles.
  • Depth perception: It is more difficult to judge another vehicle's speed at low light.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue, like alcohol, lowers your reaction times and your ability to notice road hazards.
  • Lack of experience: Driving at night, just like driving in inclement weather, requires practice. More on that below.

Ways to reduce risk

Fortunately, there are ways to lower the risk of an accident if your teen has to drive at night. The CDC recommends that new drivers avoid driving after 9:00 p.m. for the first six months if possible. The health agency also recommends parents go with teens when they first begin driving at night.

Other ways to reduce risk include:

  • Keep your headlights and windshield clean. This is particularly true when you are driving at night in snow, rain or fog.
  • Reduce speed and increase distance between your car and the car in front of you
  • If an oncoming car has bright headlights, look to the right lower shoulder of the road. Use that as a guide to keep on course.
  • Do not drive when you are sleep-deprived. If you are driving long distances, take a break every two hours.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Do not use any impairing substances before driving at night, including any amount of alcohol, marijuana or prescription medication that causes drowsiness.

If you have been on driving for some time, these tips may not be new information. A new driver, however, may not realize the extent of the glare from high-beam headlights, or what to do about it when it occurs. And many teens downplay how tired they are, despite schedules and social calendars that have them busy almost all of the time.

Fortunately, a discussion with your teen about safe driving habits can help improve your teen's ability to drive at night, when necessary.

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