Cyprus Mail

Don’t be ‘in the dark’ as the clocks change

A study found that accidents increased by 11 per cent in the fortnight directly after the clocks go back, compared to the preceding two weeks

THE clocks went back last weekend, which – apart from disorientating many of us for several days – means that evenings get darker much more quickly.

Even before the change I found myself flashing my lights at motorists who were driving in the gloom of early evening with no lights on, and cyclists with no lights or reflective clothing are a particular hazard at this time of year.

If you haven’t had your eyesight checked recently, now is a good time to do it, as almost all the important information we use as drivers is visual. Road casualty statistics from northern Europe show that about 40 per cent of collisions occur in the hours of darkness, typically between 7pm and 6am.

Driving conditions are very different at night because your vision is reduced. Your depth perception, ability to distinguish colour and your peripheral vision are all worse in poor light conditions, making it harder to judge speed and distance because objects can appear to be closer than they actually are.

Another study found that accidents increased by 11 per cent in the fortnight directly after the clocks go back, compared to the preceding two weeks.

As winter progresses, we may get fog in the mornings and evenings, so it’s important that you keep your windows clean; up in the mountains, where ice and frost can occur, visibility is especially important. Use a good quality windscreen washer fluid to keep them clean, and keep the reservoir topped up.

Also check that the windscreen wiper blades aren’t worn, leaving a smeary windscreen. Cyprus’ hot summers usually cause the rubber to deteriorate much faster than in colder climates and you may have to replace them (you can do this at most petrol stations).

As you will (hopefully!) be using your dipped headlights more often, it’s important you make sure they are working properly. The same applies for all other car lights, and indicators too. A spare set of light bulbs is a very worthwhile investment for your car. Automatic headlamp systems do not always put dipped headlamps on in foggy weather conditions, so you may need to switch them from an auto to manual setting.

Remember, you don’t need to wait until it’s completely dark before you switch on your dipped headlights – you may need to use them in reduced daylight conditions too.

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. However, you shouldn’t use your full beam during the day even in poor visibility as you risk dazzling other road users.

If your car has an adjustable brightness button for the dashboard display you will probably find it easier on your eyes to change to the night time setting which dims the display, especially if you are driving where there are no street lights.

Tyres are also important – make sure you check the tread depth regularly. If you are travelling up to the mountains once conditions turn really cold, make sure you have snow chains in the boot.

Look out for vulnerable road users in the dark – including motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – see and be seen at all times.
Pedestrians are not easily spotted when they wear dark clothing. Keep your eyes peeled and avoid speeding when your vision is reduced in both dark and bad weather conditions.

Judging the speed of vehicles is difficult in the dark – increase the distance between you and the car in front of you. If you cannot see ahead, you should slow down to give yourself more time to react to a potential hazard.

Richard Gladman, head of driving standards at Britain’s IAM RoadSmart, said: “It might sound obvious, but you cannot drive the same way in the dark as you would in daylight – but that’s what a lot of people do.

“Make allowances for your own abilities in darkness; your eyes take time to get used to the dark. And be aware others might not be as careful as you, and might not be wearing reflective or bright clothing as they should do.”

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