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9 Expert Tips To Enhance Nighttime Vision and Combat Time Change Effects

After daylight saving time ends, driving in the dark can increase hazards. Use these tips to help you see better and drive more safely at night.

Michelle Honeyager Contributor
Michelle is a contributor for CNET.
Michelle Honeyager
4 min read
Bright headlights in a parking lot at night
Shunli Zhao/Getty Images

Daylight saving time is over, and that means more driving at night. The fact that we lose an hour of daylight in fall may sound insignificant, but the end of daylight saving time results in a 16% increase in collisions with deer, according to a 2022 study. An increase in fatal car crashes following the end of daylight saving time was also observed in a published medical study from 1995 that reviewed data between 1987 and 1991.

With the extra hour of darkness during commute times, we need to adjust our habits to improve our ability to see at night. Learn why driving in the dark can be hazardous and how to see better and drive more safely after dark.

Why driving in the dark is harder

Simply put, it's harder to see in low light. Other issues make things worse, like headlight glare and interior cab lighting. 

In the US, newer vehicles have brighter headlights, causing more glare and afterimages. Technology like LED bulbs and laser emitters make driving on the road at night akin to a strobe attack.

Some drivers inherently have a harder time adjusting to low light, such as older people and anyone with vision problems like nearsightedness, astigmatism or glaucoma.

A dirty windshield
Getty Images

9 tips for safer driving at night

Luckily, there are a few simple ways to reduce vision problems when driving after dark.

Keep your windshield clean to reduce glare

Glare can increase when your windshield is dirty, as dirt disperses light. Certain treatments, like rain repellent, can also increase glare on your windshield at night. Keep your windshield as clear as possible to reduce glare and help visibility. AAA says a dirty windshield can also limit or obstruct your field of vision, and it recommends aiming for cleaning your windshield at least once a week.

Keep your headlights clean 

The Mayo Clinic says you can also help increase visibility by ensuring your headlights are free from dirt and debris.  Checking for clean headlights is especially important if you live in a dusty region or are in an area where hitting bugs is common. 

Use high beams when necessary

Be sure to use your high beams on rural roads near forests or fields, and as the National Safety Council recommends, on longer or wider stretches of road. High beams can help you see deer in these instances, but avoid using high beams in bad weather like rain or fog, as it can reduce visibility. Turn off high beams when going up hills or around bends to avoid shining high beams in other drivers' eyes.

Don't look directly at oncoming headlights

It may be instinctive to look directly at a flash of oncoming headlights coming over the hill or around a corner, but practice averting your gaze. Looking into bright headlights can temporarily impair your vision, and may also leave afterimages, making it harder to see once the vehicle has passed.

Check headlight alignment during car inspections

The Mayo Clinic also recommends working with your mechanic to ensure headlights are correctly aimed. Wear and tear on your car can cause misalignment, and some cars are manufactured with misaligned headlights. US laws don't require manufacturers to test alignment after the headlights are installed, according to NBC News. The result can be devastating glare for other nighttime drivers, plus reduced visibility for you.

A lit-up car dash on a highway at night
Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Dim your interior lights

Interior lights should always be off or dimmed when driving at night. They make your eyes more used to light, which can reduce your night vision (our eyes typically take a few minutes to adjust to darkness). If your interior lights are on to help you (or a passenger) see something inside your vehicle, it may add to the existing distractions. Interior lights are also one more light source to reflect off your windshield.

Keep your eyeglasses clean

Like dirt on a windshield, smudges on your glasses can disperse light and add to glare problems. Make sure to clean your eyewear properly, using a cloth made for eyeglasses, warm water or moisturizer-free mild dish soap, according to Heartland Optical. Wiping your glasses on your shirt may be a common practice, it can also introduce extra dirt and scratch lenses, obscuring vision further.

Wear the right eyeglasses 

Keep up on those optometrist appointments so your doctor can confirm you're wearing the correct prescription. Also, you can look into anti-reflective lenses, which have a coating that decreases reflective light. Avoid eyeglass styles that obstruct peripheral vision. 

Other options include night driving glasses, which commonly have yellow lenses designed to reduce glare from headlights. Be sure to talk to your doctor before using them; some professionals think they could make your night vision worse instead of better.

Read more: Are You Squinting Right Now? It's Time to Get Your Vision Checked

Keep yourself alert for driving

Even small time changes can leave us feeling jet-lagged. Daylight saving time can throw off your circadian rhythm (that internal clock that tells you when to go to bed and when to stay up), according to Northwestern Medicine, and being tired can lead to blurred vision

Adjusting to the end of daylight saving time can help you be more alert for driving. Check out our guide to recalibrating your internal alarm clock.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.