When you’re driving around Bibon Swamp or Bad River Reservation at night, the roads can be dark and lonely. To some extent, this can be a peaceful drive as it’s just you and nature with hardly any other cars. But the darkness itself also creates a safety challenge.
People simply don’t see as well in the dark. It’s common sense when you’re out walking around, but sitting in a car with headlights can lull you into a false sense of security. You still need to look beyond your headlights into dark areas, and passing cars and street lights create a constant change in lighting that your eyes struggle to keep up with. This problem is even bigger for seniors with declining vision. However, by remaining alert and knowing what to look for, you can compensate for reduced nighttime visibility and keep yourself safe.
Deer and Other Animals
Many animals have fur that helps them blend into a dark forest or grassy area so you can’t see them as you approach. They also often aren’t smart enough to not dart in front of your car when you startle them. In fact, some will even dart towards you on purpose as a way of trying to throw a potential “predator” off balance.
The most important thing to look out for is red or yellow eyes reflecting in your headlights up the road. This gives you time to slow down in advance and maybe honk your horn to scare them off. Once you see them, you should also dim your high beams as blinding light can cause them to freeze in place before making a sudden panic move in front of you.
Never swerve for any animal — even a deer. It may wreck your car, but a collision with a tree will cause serious or fatal injuries. Also, you may end up turning the same way as the animal. Finally, if you’re seriously hurt, you want to be on the road where other drivers can find you not deep in the woods.
The only way to avoid patches of fog is to plan ahead. Check weather reports and avoid areas that you know have frequent fog. Stick to major highways instead of taking shortcuts near lakes or around forests.
If you can’t avoid fog, slow down enough so you can stop within your vision range. Don’t use your high beams as they reflect in the fog and reduce your visibility. Don’t use your hazard lights if you’re driving on the road — the flashing lights mean you’re stopped and/or disabled, and other drivers seeing them in the travel lane may become confused.
Fallen Tree Limbs and Other Debris
Fallen tree limbs and other debris are a possibility on any road but especially late at night on less traveled roads. The most common causes are heavy wind or raise, so use extra caution during storms, after storms, and on windy days.
Make sure that you’re driving at a speed that allows you to stop in time when an object hits your headlights. You should also be on the lookout for shadows, changing patterns in the approaching road, or blocked lines or reflectors. If you notice that something looks odd before you’re close enough to see what it is, you’ll give yourself more time to slow down and stop if you need to.
These are just a few tips to keep you safe on the road. By remaining alert and always thinking about what dangers might lie ahead, you’ll increase your chances of arriving home safely.