Driving At Night Introduction

Driving at night is another aspect of driving which demands special techniques and precautions.

The problems of driving at night vary widely with the type of road and the amount of traffic; this page deals with the most important aspects.

Driving At Night Your Vehicle Lights

At night, your vehicle lights are the most important source of information for both you and for other road users.

They also tell other drivers your movements. Use them with care and consideration.


  • keep your headlights clean
  • use your headlights at night, dipped or full beam, as appropriate
  • use dipped headlights at any time when the light is poor, even during the day.

You should

  • check all your lights before and during a long journey
  • fix any lighting fault immediately, for your own safety, and the safety of others. Carry spare bulbs.
  • remember that extra weight at the rear of your vehicle could cause your headlights to dazzle other road users. Some models have headlight adjusters to deal with this.

Your Lights Auxiliary driving lights

Auxiliary driving lights are main beam headlights and may be used to improve the view of the road ahead. However, they must only be used in conjunction with the obligatory main beam headlights and they must all switch off at the same time.

Only one pair of dipped beam headlights may be fitted to a vehicle. Front fog lights must not be used to improve the view of the road ahead, except in seriously reduced visibility.

Night Lights

Driving At Night Your Lights At Junctions

Brake lights can dazzle.

Don't keep your foot on the brake pedal if you're waiting at a junction or queuing in traffic, except in fog- use the handbrake.

However, switch off your indicator light only if it's dazzling the driver behind and, if you do switch it off, make sure you switch it on again before you move off.

Driving at night Judgement

You'll find you're very much more limited by conditions at night. You can't see as far as you can in daylight, so less information is available.

Problems vary widely with the type of road and amount of traffic.

Driving at night Judging Speed

You need to be more alert and aware that you can't safely drive as fast at night as you can in the daylight. This includes driving at dusk or dawn, even in good weather.

Never drive SO fast that you can't stop well within the distance you can see to be clear. That is, within the range of your lights.

If you can't stop safely within the range of your lights, you're going too fast.


Fluorescent material shows up well in daylight or at dusk, but is of little use in the dark. Only reflective material shows up well in headlights.

At dusk

You may find it best to put your lights on before lighting-up time.

Don't be afraid to be the first driver to switch on.

It's better to see and be seen.

At dawn

The opposite applies.

Don't switch off your lights until you're sure it's safe. Make sure you can see and be seen.

If you are driving a dark-coloured car - navy blue, brown, dark grey, etc. - you should

  • switch on earlier
  • switch off later.

When you drive with your lights on, other drivers can

  • see you earlier
  • tell which way you're heading. This is often difficult in the half-light without lights.


Driving At Night Visibility

You should have your eyesight checked regularly.

Ask yourself, 'Can I really see as well as I would like?'

If you cent see so well at night, it might be your eyes that are to blame, night driving may be highlighting the need for an eyesight check.

How far can you see?

Test yourself in a suitable place.

Pick an object within the range of your lights and see if you can stop by the time you reach it.

You'll be surprised how difficult this is with dipped lights on an unlit road, and shows that you should take a good look before you dip your lights.

Lighter coloured objects are easier to see at night.

Adjusting to darkness

Give your eyes a minute or two to adjust to the darkness, particularly when you're coming out of a brightly lit area or building.

You can always fill in the time cleaning your lights, mirrors, windscreen, etc.

Remember this when you leave a motorway service area after a rest or refuelling stop.

A clean screen cuts down dazzle.


  • Wear tinted glasses, sun-glasses or night-driving glasses.
  • Spray the windscreen or windows with tints.

Built-up areas

Always use dipped headlights, or dim-dip if fitted, in built-up areas at night. It helps others to see you.

In areas where street Lights cause patches of shadow, watch out for pedestrians, especially those in dark clothes, who can be difficult to see.


  • Be on the alert for pedestrians.
  • Approach pedestrian crossings at a speed at which you can stop safely if necessary.
  • Watch for cyclists and joggers.


Driving At Night Noise Consideration

Keep all noise to a minimum.

  • Don't rev your engine.
  • Close your car doors quietly.

    Remember that neighbours and children may be asleep.

  • Take extra care setting/disarming the anti-theft alarm on your vehicle.

Using the horn at night

You must not use your horn between 11.30pm and 7.00am in a built-up area (except to avoid danger from a moving vehicle).

If you need to warn other road users of your presence at night, flash your headlights.


Driving At Night Overtaking or Following

You'll need to take extra care before attempting to overtake at night. It s more difficult because you can see less.

Only overtake if you can see that the road ahead will remain clear until after you have finished the manoeuvre.

Don't overtake if there's a chance you are approaching

  • a road junction
  • a bend
  • the brow of a bridge or hill, except on a dual carriageway
  • a pedestrian crossing
  • road markings indicating double white lines ahead

or if there's likely to be

  • a vehicle overtaking or turning right
  • any other potential hazard

Stay clear and dip

Make sure you don't get too close to the vehicle ahead, and always dip your light so you don't dazzle the driver.

Your light beam should fall short of the rear of the vehicle in front.

Remember your separation distance.

On a dual carriageway or motorway where it's possible to overtake, don't use full beam in the face of oncoming drivers.

If you're being overtaken

Dip your lights as soon as the vehicle passes you.


Driving At Night Parking

Cars and light goods vehicles (1525 kg or less unladen), invalid carriages and motorcycles can park without lights on roads with a speed limit of 30mph or less. They must comply with any parking restrictions, and not park within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction.

They must also be parked parallel to and close to the side of the road or in a designated parking place and facing in the direction of the traffic flow.


Switch your headlights off when you stop,even for a short while.

It's an offence to leave them on when the vehicle is parked. The fixed glare can be very dazzling, especiallyfor any reason, the vehicle is on the offside of the road facing oncoming traffic.

  • leave your vehicle on any other road without side or parking lights unless a sign indicates that lights are not required; better to get it off the road altogether
  • leave your vehicle standing on the right-hand side of the road, except in a one-way street.


Driving At Night Meeting Other Vehicles

Another vehicle's lights can tell you which direction they're heading and can give you an idea of their speed. Oncoming lights should raise a number of questions in your mind, such as

  • How far away is the vehicle and how fast is it moving?
  • Should I slow down while we passeach other?
  • How soon should I dip my lights?
  • How far ahead can I see before I dip?
  • Before l dip, is there anything on myside of the road
    • that l might endanger?
    • that might endanger me?
    For example, a stationary vehicle, a cyclist, a pedestrian, or an unlit builders skip.

Headlights on full beam

When your headlights are on full beam

  • dip early enough to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers, but not too early
  • check the left-hand verge before you dip.

When you're dazzled

If the headlights of oncoming vehicles dazzle you, slow down and, if necessary, stop.

Don't look directly at oncoming headlights.

Don't retaliate by leaving your lights on full beam and dazzling the oncoming driver.

On a left-hand bend

Dip earlier.

Your headlights will cut straight across the eyes of anyone coming toward you.

On a right-hand bend this might not happen, or it won't happen so soon.