Let’s all go (carefully) driving in the dark

 Driving in the dark

In many countries in the west like Canada, the US and the UK, as well as Australia, driving at night is arguably the riskiest thing people do on a day-to-day basis. Forbes, for example, reported that in the US, “49% of fatal crashes happen at night, with a fatality rate per mile of travel about three times as high as daytime hours.” Hong Kong is a bit different however, as there are generally fewer accidents at night, with - according to the Transport Department - only about 24% of road fatalities reported in 2014 happening at night.

That being said, the Transport Department’s statistics found that nearly half (approximately 44%) of all accidents in 2014 happened during night-time hours. This highlights the fact that, while not as dangerous as in other countries, driving in Hong Kong at night is still risky, likely the riskiest thing we do on a day-to-day basis.

To help avoid a potential accident and subsequent claim on your car insurance, here are our top 6 tips for driving at night.

1. Know when to use your headlights

In large parts of Hong Kong, you could probably get away with not turning your headlights on at night. Aside from this being illegal, you are required by law to turn your headlights on at dusk, as driving without your headlights on makes it harder for pedestrians and other drivers to see you.

One thing we commonly see while out at night is that some drivers will only have their daytime running lights on - the lights that come on as soon as you start your car. While these do provide illumination at night, they do not provide enough illumination for you to drive safely. Beyond that, you may be pulled over by police, as these lights are not considered safe enough to drive by at night.

2. Know when to use your high beam headlights

High beams, the brightest headlight setting, are useful for providing extra illumination on dark roads. While they are useful for the driver, they can be an extreme nuisance for other drivers and pedestrians. This means that it is important to know when to use high beams.

Generally speaking, these lights will illuminate 300-500 feet in front of your car. If you have light sources within this distance e.g., street lights or other cars, then there is no reason your high beams should be on. If you are driving on a poorly lit road with no traffic ahead of you, then high beams are strongly recommended. Just turn them off when you see a car coming.

3. Avoid looking directly at oncoming lights

While in most parts of Hong Kong high beam headlights are not necessary, some drivers still tend to use them. This can be incredibly distracting, especially if you are driving in the opposite direction. If you see a car coming towards you with bright lights on, do not look directly at the light, as this could temporarily blind you. Instead, look to the left edge of the road.

Should someone behind you have their high beams on, this can also be distracting. What most drivers will do is move their rearview mirror up (which usually can be adjusted by flipping the tab in the middle of the mirror). This will adjust the mirror so that the light from the car behind is reflected up while still allowing you to see what is behind you.

One thing to absolutely not do, however tempting it may be, is to flick your high beams on and off as a form of revenge. This can actually increase the risk of an accident, and should there be one, you will be found at fault, which means your car insurance provider will not cover any damage.

4. Remove distractions from the vehicle

We don’t mean spouses or children here. What we are talking about are light distractions. By having lights on in the cabin of the car you are actually decreasing your ability to see outside, which increases your chances of being in an accident. It is therefore recommended to turn off all cabin lights (e.g, overhead lights and map lights), and if possible dim your instrument panel. Most new cars will do this automatically, or will have a switch that turns on night-mode making it easier for you to see the road.  

It would be a good idea to put your phone down while driving at night as well. Driving while on your mobile phone has actually been illegal in Hong Kong since 2000, but the law is often ignored. This drastically increases your chances of being in an accident, and should this happen you may be charged with distracted driving, which many insurers will not cover any damages for.  

5. Keep your windows and mirrors clean

Clean windows and mirrors will help to reduce glare while increasing visibility. Many experts recommend rubbing windows and mirrors with newspaper. This will reduce grime on the windshield, making it easier to see at night.

It also pays to clean your headlights regularly. Using a microfiber cloth to remove grime from your headlights means they will illuminate the area in front of the car better, making it easier for you to see.  

6. Don’t speed, and leave more room between vehicles

Relying on our headlights to see when driving at night can trick our brain into thinking we are at less risk than we are. Many people will tend to focus only on what's illuminated ahead of them, which means we may not see the whole picture. As such, our reaction time often tends to be a bit slower, and the margin of error much higher.

By following too closely at night there is a higher chance of our headlights blinding the person in front of us, combine this with our usually slower reaction time - due to us being more tired at night - and the chances of an accident go up.

Therefore, it is best to not speed at night - drive the speed limit, and leave more space between vehicles. This gives us more time to react to situations and avoid accidents.

Finally, it is important to have the proper car insurance if you are going to be driving at night. Contact the experts here at Kwiksure for a free quote today.

The above information is for reference only. Kwiksure takes no responsibility for the accuracy and timeliness of the information. For the coverage, mode of compensation, benefit limit and premium levels of any specific insurance plan, please refer to the relevant policy terms.