Driving in the dark requires special skills and preparation
You’ve been driving for an extended period of time on an uneventful stretch of road. It’s dark, traffic’s light. You walk into a truckstop and you totter as your body struggles to gain equilibrium.
You’re likely experiencing highway hypnosis, or white-line fever, a state of mind brought about by the monotony of highway driving. To deal with the problem, engineers designed the Indiana Toll Road with curves every couple of miles.
Highway hypnosis is just one of the conditions you may encounter while driving at night. You are more susceptible to fatigue as your body seeks sleep. Your vision is impaired from lack of light. Your equipment may be difficult for other drivers to see, especially in rainy or snowy weather.
You can take precautions to minimize these situations and keep yourself and your rig safe. Plan ahead to get yourself and your equipment ready for night driving, and employ effective scanning and defensive driving techniques to stay on top of highway conditions.
“We concentrate on three factors: vision, glare and fatigue,” says Kimberly Genovese, safety director at Mason-Dixon Intermodal. “We concentrate on driving in the shadows, depth perception and headlights straight on in your face.”
A former military pilot for 25 years and now vice president of safety at West Bros. Transportation, Ralph Clemons says he sees parallels between piloting and truck driving. He advocates scanning “outward inward — you start on the horizon and work your way in. That way you get the proper perspective.”
Clemons recommends scanning from 60 degrees to the left to 60 degrees to the right. “As your speed increases, your peripheral vision decreases,” he says. “You have to keep your head and eyes moving in the daytime, but even more so at night.”
Your eyes have it
Have your vision checked regularly. If your physical or your CDL requires corrective lenses, get them and have them handy when driving, says Doug Moat, director of safety at Universal Am-Can. He recommends getting an exam every six months.
Don’t stare at lights from oncoming traffic. Look away from the light or close an eye if you have night vision problems, Clemons recommends. If you focus on taillights long enough, they might appear to be moving when they actually aren’t.
Depth perception is more difficult to gauge at night. Genovese says it’s harder to see vehicles slowing down and stopping at night.