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Driver dilemma

10 essential tips for driving in dark winter conditions

Stay safe on the roads now that the clocks have gone back.

NOW THAT THE clocks have gone back, summer is well and truly over and the long hours of darkness are here to stay, until March at least.

Familiar routes can pose totally different challenges in the dark and you really do need to be extra vigilant.

Even during the day, darker conditions bring poor visibility and higher risk of collisions, simply because it can be harder to spot hazards.

Here are some things that you can do to stay that little bit safer on the road when driving in the dark:

  • Check your lights: See and be seen and make sure all your bulbs are working and your lights are clean.
  • Check your wiper blades: your wiper blades should be replaced about once a year or as soon as you notice the rubbing wearing, cracking or not effectively clearing the windscreen.
  • Clean your windscreen: smeared and dirty windscreens can make the glare of the winter’s low sun even more blinding and dangerous. Make sure you clean the inside as well as the outside of the windscreen with proper window cleaner.
  • One of the biggest hazards during the darker months is vulnerable road users. Pedestrians and cyclists become harder to spot especially when they aren’t wearing any reflective clothing. So be extra vigilant especially around schools and built up areas and unlit stretches of road.
  • For motorbike riders, wear protective gear that is highly visible. If you are wearing a backpack make sure it has reflective markings as well.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on your speed, remember you are twice as likely to kill a pedestrian driving at 50km/h as you are if driving at 40km/h.
  • Where there are no street lights or you are driving on an empty stretch of road in seriously reduced visibility, switch on your full beam to help you see further ahead.
  • But don’t blind people! One of the biggest night-time hazards is the dazzle effect caused by the bright light from on-coming motors. Dip your headlights when you meet other vehicles.
  • Judging the speed of vehicles is difficult in the dark – increase the distance between you and the car in front of you.
  • Put a basic emergency kit in the boot of your car. It really is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you have a breakdown and have to wait by the side of the road in the dark. At a minimum, have a blanket, waterproof jacket, torch and a first aid kit as well as a few spare bulbs.

READ: 8 motorsport documentaries for edge-of-your-seat viewing >

READ: From air-con to massage seats: Which optional extras on a car are worth paying for? >

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