It is our job to equip our customers adequately and safely for the rigours of everyday driving without the safety net of a supervisor in the passenger seat. In order to achieve this, we need to ensure that we cover all aspects and conditions that are likely to be faced by a drive, providing them with the experience and understanding that will make sure they are fully prepared. Night time driving is an essential practical lesson. It can be carried out on the same roads used for other topics, and there are advantages in the driver having to deal with the same roads but under different conditions. It is an opportunity to raise issues that remain big factors in serious traffic collisions – dealing with different visual conditions, observation skills, anticipation and awareness. Add to this young passengers, parties, drink and drugs, fatigue etc, exacerbated by the dark. Fatal and serious traffic collisions happen mostly when driving at night and/or on weekends, particularly when carrying similarly aged passengers, and as a result of speeding.

● Alcohol and driving without seat belts remain key factors in young driver crashes and resulting deaths and injuries.
● Drug-driving, especially involving cannabis, is increasing, particularly among young men, and becomes especially dangerous
when mixed with alcohol.

Core of the lesson
What needs to be reviewed and prioritised?
● Eyesight & Driving Licence checks (if necessary)
● Familiarity with vehicle controls (location of headlight switches and clean windows, inside as well as outside)
● Defensive driving – how this is effected where the field of vision is reduced
● Positive driving – Driver performance, not vehicle performance

Skills Development
Night Driving topics to include:
1 The importance of headlights
2 Allowing time to adjust to the dark
3 Driving at a speed so that you can stop within the distance you can see
4 Driving at dusk and dawn
5 Correct use of parking lights; main beam; dipped beam; driving lights; and fog lights
6 Dazzle
7 Looking for pedestrians
8 Being prepared for cyclists
9 Differences between lit town roads and unlit open roads, compensating for the transition

Firstly, Route Planning:
● to ensure that your new driver has the maximum opportunity to learn and apply these skills
● possible use of the same routes as for other topics

1 The importance of headlights
Check that the lights are:
● clean
● operating properly
● correctly adjusted

Coaching Exercise 1
While stationary, ask student to check the headlight settings

2 Allowing time to adjust to the dark
It will help if you:
● clean windscreens (inside and out), windows and all mirrors (and lights too)

Coaching Exercise 2
While stationary confirm with student that the vehicle’s glass is clean

Coaching Exercise 3
While stationary, ask your student what the effects of dwindling daylight are.
Answers can include:
● difficulty seeing information
● contrast falls
● colours fade
● edges become indistinct
● extra strain on the eyes

4 Driving at a speed so that you can stop within the distance you can see. This means, never driving so fast that you can’t stop within the range of the headlights.

Coaching Exercise 4
Ask your student for the reasons why this is correct.
● Vision is more limited at night meaning that less information is available. It follows that drivers can’t drive as fast at night as may be safe in the daylight.

Confirm that if it’s not possible to stop safely within the range of the headlights, then the car is travelling too fast.

5 Driving at dusk and dawn

Adapting our driving for sunset and sunrise means that we need to know how to:
● Compensate for half-light conditions

We also need to take into account changing weather conditions, including rain. Some wet road surfaces can reflect light and affect what you can or cannot see ahead.

Coaching Exercise 5
Ask your student how it is possible to compensate for half light conditions.
● allow time for eyes to adjust. If this is difficult, recommend a professional eyesight check
● be ready to use the headlights earlier at dusk, especially when driving a dark coloured car
● at dawn, leave the headlights on longer
● confirm answers to exercise three, if necessary

5 The correct use of lights
The correct use of lights is controlled by legislation and is documented in the Highway Code. Questions are also included in the Theory section of the driving test.

Coaching Exercise 6
Check your student’s previous knowledge by asking, when it will be necessary to use:
a) parking lights
b) main beam
c) dipped beam
d) driving lights
e) fog lights
Example answers:
a) parking lights must be used, for instance, where the
speed limit for the road exceeds 30mph
b) main beam will increase the range of vision, typically outside towns, on unlit country roads
c) dipped beam must be used outside built up areas
d) driving lights, whether dipped or main beam, should be used to suit the prevailing road and traffic conditions
e) fog lights must only be used where visibility is seriously reduced, that is to less than 100 metres (328 feet)

6 Dazzle
Headlights of vehicles shining directly into drivers’ eyes will cause dazzle.

Coaching Exercise 7
Check your student’s previous knowledge by asking how:
a) they can avoid dazzling other drivers
b) what they should do if they are dazzled by other drivers
Example answers:
a) Switch from full beam to dipped beam where other drivers are likely to be dazzled, for instance, where there is approaching traffic, or before overtaking
b) Slow down, look towards the nearside kerb

7 Looking for pedestrians
Although there will be street lights in built-up areas, the lighting can cause patches of shadow that may hide vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, including joggers that are not wearing bright or fluorescent clothing.

Coaching Exercise 8
Ask student to make an intelligent prediction where pedestrians may step out into the road at night.
Example answer
Pubs, bars or clubs at and around closing time
Look out for:
Tired / possibly intoxicated pedestrians

8 Being prepared for cyclists
Cycling is being encouraged as an eco-friendly and more healthy means of transport, so we need to be asking ourselves when and where we can expect to see them.

Coaching Exercise 9
Ask student how they will look out for cyclists
Example answer
Look for areas of shadows caused by street lighting that may conceal cyclists wearing dark clothes.
Confirm this with student and add:
Many cyclists will follow the advice in the Highway Code, including about wearing light coloured or fluorescent clothing. Some cyclists do not follow all the rules and may even cross red lights and ride on the pavement, so we have to always expect the ‘unexpected’.

9 Differences between lit
town roads and unlit open roads, and how to compensate for the transition
Built-up areas in some towns can be quite bright. Going from these roads to unlit ones can affect your eyes.

Coaching Exercise 10
Ask student for any local examples of where this might happen

Coaching Exercise 11
Ask student what the differences are and how they should respond
Example answer
When driving from a well lit area into one that is unlit, the eyes will need some time to adjust to the lower level of lighting. Where there is traffic on unlit roads this can help to provide information, such as the sweep of the headlights of vehicles ahead approaching a bend can give some indicate as to how sharp the bend is, also the brake lights of vehicles in front can provide an early warning to reduce speed.
Confirm this with student and add:
On unlit roads we need to rely on ‘cats-eyes’ more and take notice of the black and white ‘hazard marker posts’ with red/white reflectors.