See clearly the dangers of driving in the dark

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 15, 2017

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Shorter days are no excuse to stay in the dark about good driving habits, according to safety experts.

According to AAA Michigan, the end of daylight saving time, which went into effect Nov. 5, often disrupts more than people’s sleep habits as the days continue to grow shorter.

The auto agency is basing its concern off a 2016 traffic study that found that almost 30 percent of drivers surveyed said they have operated a vehicle while having difficulty staying awake within the past month, with almost 20 percent of drivers having repeat occurrences of this and almost 3 percent being regular or “fairly often” at doing it. 

The dark can do more than make people want to fall asleep. In poorly lit areas, it can also obscure vision and make it harder to see obstacles, pedestrians, slippery roads and more.

AAA Public Affairs Specialist Gary Bubar urged drivers to get adequate sleep at night and to put away the cellphone and other distracting gizmos while driving. 

“As it gets darker earlier, fatigue can play a role too,” he said. “After a long day of work, more (people) are going to be driving home in the dark. Make sure you’re getting enough rest and that sort of thing.” 

Drivers must also keep their headlights on when it’s dark and obey all traffic laws, including speed limits and the use of turn signals. Windows should be clean to maximize visibility for the vehicle operator.

Bubar asked the public to be careful and to give themselves more time to get to their destination while driving in the dark.

“Normally people drive slower, and it’s certainly more difficult to see everything,” he said. “Make sure that … your windshield is clean, both inside and out, because glare becomes a huge issue, especially as we get rain and snow down the line.”

Bubar also recommended that drivers keep their headlamps on even during the daytime to enhance visibility. 

“And keep a (wary) eye out for pedestrians, because not all pedestrians dress in light colors or do something we expect pedestrians to do, like cross crosswalks and all that,” he added.

Kendall Wingrove, communications manager for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, agreed that drivers need to be alert to crossing pedestrians, and vehicles need to be especially careful when it’s dark while it’s snowing or icy outside.  

“Regardless of the seasons of the year, wear your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle,” Wingrove said. “Always take safety along for the ride.”

Find out more about AAA Michigan by visiting www.michigan.aaa.com. For the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, visit www.michigan.gov/ohsp.

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