City Driving At Night. Stay Safe With These Simple Techniques
Do you dislike, or fear, driving at night, particularly in the city? Do you plan your driving so you can avoid night driving altogether? Welcome. You’re in the right place.
Night Driving In The City
The most significant change from day to night is the absence of sunlight. However, there is still a lot of light around, especially in urban areas. There can also be a lot of activity on the streets.
This is about how to make the best use of the available light. I like to think in terms of a dance of light, shadows, and motion.
The Dance Of Light, Shadows, and Motion
The ‘dance’ starts with a calm, quiet space to ‘work’ at driving. I keep my windows up, the AC or heat on for comfort, and the jazz music at a low volume. That way, I can still hear sirens, horns, and even bicycle bells.
I also have my windshield clear of hanging objects or stuff on the dash. I want to have clear lines of vision around the front of my vehicle. I have interior lights off, and dash lights turned down if necessary to reduce interior distraction.
Get Into The Rhythm
While driving at nighttime in the city, I stay alert for dark, quick-moving shadows around my car. These are usually pedestrians or cyclists dressed entirely in black.
Remember that pedestrians and cyclists think that you can see them as quickly as they can see your car. Even though your car has lights and they are entirely black, often without lights on their bikes.
As I scan my mirrors and beyond in both directions, I also turn my head to see my sides as far as possible and push my peripheral vision.
By this, I mean that when I have turned my head in one direction as far as safely possible, I take just a second to see further as if out of the side of my eyes. To get a sense of what’s there. I don’t need to identify anything other than a sense of motion or rhythm.
Then I mentally ‘paint’ a canvas of light and shadows. I start with the relatively stationary elements. This is the background on which the ‘dance’ takes place. Then I add in the lights and shadows that are in motion.
This is very similar to the scanning I describe in night driving in the country. The main difference is what you see is much more immediate in the city. Driving at night significantly increases the range of what you need to see because of the more incredible speed.
Be Alert Of Breaks In The Rhythm
While driving at night down city streets, my vehicle’s movement is the ‘plane’ of motion around which this ‘dance’ builds.
The ‘canvas’ is continually changing with input from my continuous scanning. This ‘dance’ of motion includes other vehicles moving on the street in either direction and even the pedestrians on the sidewalk, as long as they remain on the sidewalk.
When there is a motion that threatens or intrudes into my ‘plane,’ it gets my immediate attention even if it is on the edges of my pushed peripheral vision.
It could be a car entering a crosswalk too aggressively from a side street before stopping, a pedestrian suddenly stepping off the sidewalk into traffic, or a cyclist, coming out of nowhere, across my field of motion.
These intrusions are usually detected by constantly scanning my mirrors and pushing my peripheral vision before they are a danger. This gives me time to adjust my speed or direction, to avoid the potential threat without losing my rhythm.
I practice these techniques, whether I’m driving at night or in the daytime. I find that nighttime driving requires a little more focus to compensate for less light.
Remember always to have your full lighting system on, especially driving at night, and always use your signals for all lane changes and turns.