After dark: Road safety tips for driving in the winter evenings

Two weeks after the clocks go back, there are around 278 more road traffic collisions than in the two weeks before. That amounts to around 20 more incidents per day¹ – a figure that can be reduced if we take the right safety measures. 

Why do the clocks go back?

At 2am on the last Sunday in March, the clocks go forward, giving us lighter evenings. The earliest sunrise in the UK is during the middle of June around 4.40am. Without daylight savings time this would be 3.40am! Near the end of December, the latest sunrise is around 8.06am – so that would be 9.06am without daylight savings, meaning it would only start getting light when we’re already at work or school.

This is just the times for London – other places around the UK have an even earlier / later sunrise in the summer and winter months. In Inverness, for example, the sunrises at almost 9am during December…and that’s with daylight savings time. 

That’s why daylight savings time is so important. The earlier sunrises give us more daylight in the mornings when everyone is travelling to work or school. However, with the changing daylight hours comes a few pitfalls when it comes to driving…

Lower sun

With the evenings drawing in quicker, the sun is lower in the sky. That means you’ll need to take extra care when driving home from school or work. Make sure your car is fitted with a pull-down sun visor and, if possible, a fade-in sun strip across the top of your windscreen. One of the most important ways to stay safe when driving towards the sun is to leave enough space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. 

Other tips include keeping on top of your car’s maintenance such as cleaning your windshield inside and out, checking it for cracks and avoid putting reflective or bright objects on the dashboard 

Longer, darker nights

The sun may cause problems, but the darker nights do too! Believe it or not, darkness isn’t the only cause of road traffic collisions – dazzling other drivers with your headlights can also cause an incident! 

Some 91% of the public say that some car headlights are too bright, according to a survey by the RAC². This figure has increased since the introduction of modern “blue” LED headlights, which seem a lot brighter than the halogen kind with the yellow tinge. 

So, is it actually illegal for another driver to dazzle me with their headlights? In fact, some types of LED headlights are illegal – if they’re too blue they can be mistaken for a police car and if they’re mismatched then other drivers may think there are two separate vehicles. 

The MOT Manual states:

“‘Mandatory headlamps’ are a matched pair of main beam headlamps and a matched pair of dipped-beam headlamps. These can be separate or a single pair of headlamps. Lamps are matched if they: emit light of substantially the same colour and intensity and are the same size and shape that they are symmetrical to each other…”

Not only can headlights dazzle other drivers head-on, they can also be too bright in wing mirrors and rearview mirrors, potentially obstructing another driver’s view of the road and other vehicles. 

If possible, dim the lights on your dashboard and always remember to dip your headlights in built-up areas or when you’re near other vehicles. You can also purchase some anti-glare glasses for a very reasonable price! The glasses absorb UV light and prevents glare at night from street lamps and the headlights of other vehicles. 

Lighter mornings vs Single/Double Summer Time (SDST)

When the clocks go back, Daylight Saving Time will come to an end, which means it is brighter for longer in the morning, while the sunset will come one hour earlier in the evening. But there is growing support for Single/Double Summer Time (SDST), backed by charities such as Brake. This involves putting the clocks an hour forward all year long, so we would be on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +2 in the summer and GMT+1 in the winter. 

This would mean darker mornings, but the popular argument for SDST is that people tend to be more tired on the drive home from work. There’s also the fact that some people like to visit friends and family after work or go shopping – so there are a lot more people on the roads after work than before work! 

If you think you are the victim of a road traffic collision which was at least partially someone else’s fault get in touch with our specialist serious injury team for some “no obligation” advice. 

Think your injury isn’t “serious”? If it affects your day to day life in any way, then it is serious.

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¹ The Independent