What Time is Considered Night Time Driving? [Explained]

Whether you are a new driver who just received their permit or have had your license for a long time now, it’s important to know what time is considered night time driving. Driving changes with the day, as do the laws regarding it. To ensure you are prepared and following all laws, you will want to keep in mind the differences.

Quick Answer

The time that is considered “night driving” varies by state. Driving any time between an hour after sunset and an hour before sunrise is almost universally considered night time driving.

Since every state has different guidelines, to be safe, it’s recommended that you begin following any night-related driving rules and regulations around half an hour before sunset and continuing them until half an hour after sunrise. Basically, any time when headlights are necessary due to the sun setting or rising, you should consider night time driving.

Driving at night has benefits, but it also has some significant hindrances that are important to consider. If you’re planning to drive at night, you’ll want to take a few things into account.

Planning for Night Time Driving

If you’re going to be out driving late and have minimal driving experience, find it difficult to drive at night, or just aren’t used to it, it’s important to plan.

Check Sunrise/Sunset Times

Drivers are supposed to be aware of their surroundings, and this includes the time of day and weather. You should always keep in mind what time of day it is and the dangers or benefits that may result. The time the sun sets or rises will differ depending on your time of year and where you live, but it’s only a short google search away. Just remember, even if you are in the same region, North and South play a role, as well as the landscape.

Sunrise typically occurs around 6:30-7:30 a.m. and sunset typically around 5:00-6:00 p.m.

West Coast: In terms of the United States, the West Coast will typically have slightly earlier times for both sunrise and sunset, though this is subject to change based on Northern or Southern, how far west, geographic landscape, and season.

Midwest: The Midwest will have a very similar sunset time but will have a slightly later sunrise time. This of course, like with the West Coast, is subject to change and slight differences within.

East Coast: The East Coast will typically have the latest times for both sunrise and sunset, but this is not a guarantee. New York, for example, has times very similar to areas in the Midwest. And, of course, like the previous regions, these times are subject to changes.

Why Someone Might Want to Drive at Night

Night driving has certain draws that set it aside from day driving, and some even prefer it. There are practical reasons as well as aesthetic ones.

Emptier roads: This is perhaps the most common and best benefit. No one likes traffic, and as long as you miss the end-of-day or dinner time rush, there should be very few other cars on the road. Especially for long trips, driving at night can be a blessing, as the highways won’t be backed up. Plus, without as many cars on the road, or other reckless drivers, there’s less worry about an accident.

Cooler air: Night time driving is perfect for those individuals who like to feel the breeze or enjoy the cold air. There is no need for A/C and the wind feels glorious, especially during spring or summer.

Less sunlight: Since there is no sunlight, you won’t have to worry about sunglasses, using a visor, or positioning to avoid the shine. And, on long drives, you won’t get a sunburn.

Easy to see other cars: With no sunlight comes the need for headlights. Headlights make cars very difficult to miss, so you won’t have to focus too hard to see the cars around you.

Children sleep: Night time is extremely boring for children, putting them right to sleep. Also, it’s likely way past their bedtime.

Beautiful lights: In large cities, the sky will illuminate with lights from various buildings, creating a wondrous sight.

Silence: With fewer cars and distractions comes a certain feeling of peace and quiet. It’s a time for you to be away from the rest of the world and its hustle and bustle. Night driving can be very therapeutic for some, and offers time to think and breathe, just as with any other quiet setting.

Why Someone Might Want to Avoid Driving at Night

Night time driving, while enjoyable for some, can be scary for others. The lack of sunlight also brings with it a number of risks.

  • Reduced vision brought about by a general lack of sunlight as well as the glare from other vehicle’s headlights.
  • If you have poor eyesight, such as a stigmatism, driving at night might be difficult due to all the shadows, the glare, and lack of light.
  • With night time also comes fatigue, and for some driving at night brings a risk of reduced reflexes and even falling asleep at the wheel.
  • For those who don’t avoid it, rush hour traffic (5:00 p.m.) can be terrible, with families going out to eat or people returning home from work.
  • Drunk driving is more prevalent at night due to bar crawlers and party goers; this can be a threat to safety, especially in higher populated areas.

Why Driving at Night Is More Difficult

Most of the reasons that you might want to avoid driving at night are due to it being, objectively, more difficult than driving during the day. There are a handful of main factors that contribute to the increased difficulty.

Lack of adequate lighting: The lack of natural lighting, or even lighting in general, makes it more difficult for your eyes to see details, gauge distance, and accurately pay attention to your surroundings. This means that it’s more likely that you will miss a pothole, curb, another vehicle, or even a pedestrian, resulting in minor or major accidents.

Glare impairing vision: Due to the lack of light, the shocking exposure to headlights creates a major contrast, resulting in glare from your windshield/windows. Glare also makes it more difficult for your eyes to adjust to the differences in lighting. Sometimes, there is even a recovery period where you are practically driving blind. This, obviously, poses some threat to safety, especially for those with difficulty seeing.

Lowered reaction time: A significant portion of our reaction time can be contributed to our vision. A lack of light and the glare from headlights can pose a major threat to quick and timely reactions. Additionally, many feel greater fatigue the later it gets, which also reduces your reaction time. This means that you may not be able to make the snap decisions that prevent accidents from occurring.

Sleepiness: While on the topic of fatigue, drowsiness can be a major issue for people driving at night. Falling asleep at the wheel can be a fatal mistake, and it happens to many people. Even nodding off for 1 minute or less could cause a serious accident. With lack of lighting, busy days, and reduced traffic, it’s easier to doze off while driving during night time.

Hopefully, when you drive at night, you consider all the factors necessary for your safety. For the night-owl, driving at night can be a peaceful way to relax, but it is important to consider the increased difficulty.

Tips for Driving Safely at Night

While it is undeniable that night driving is more difficult, there are ways to reduce the dangers. Here are some tips for safe night time driving.

Make sure all your external lights are functional: It’s important that your headlights are adequate and functional, allowing you to see the road in front of you and alerting other cars to your position. It is also equally important that you make sure your brake lights and turn signals work.

Clean your windshield and headlights: A dirty windshield will only increase glare, reducing your vision even further than driving at night does naturally. Dirty headlights also may fail to light up your surroundings as well as they could, causing you to miss important details, such as potholes. Keeping them clean can be the difference between having an accident or not.

Use the “night” setting for your dashboard and rearview mirror: Most cars nowadays have night settings on both the dashboard and the rearview mirror. These typically turn on when your headlights do, but sometimes you will need to do so manually. Having any interior light in your vehicle reduces your eyes’ ability to see in the dark and/or causes a period of adjustment. This is detrimental to driving safety, so be sure to leave all interior lights off and use the “night” setting.

Know your vision and its limits: Keep up with your eyes’ health and proactively try to maintain good vision. If you know you have difficulty seeing, make sure you know your limits and try to avoid the darkest hours. If you do have to drive late at night, it might be best to stick to backroads, as this will reduce glare from other vehicles.

Watch your speed: Since your vision and reaction time are reduced, it’s best to keep your speed low. The lower your moving, the more time you have to react, so the better your chances are of avoiding an accident.

Keep distance between you and other cars: Since your reaction time and vision are lowered, it’s also best to keep a greater distance between you and other cars on the road. This will give you more time to react if something goes wrong and potentially save you and your vehicle.

Focus your eyes on the road itself: To avoid glare, it’s a good idea to try and look at the road itself. Follow the lines on the road to keep you centered in your lane and avoid the nasty headache of headlight glare.

How Many Night Hours Do Learners Need?

To get your license, many states require that you complete a certain number of night hours while driving with a licensed driver. This is to gain important experience on how to drive safely before traveling off on your own.

The specific requirement varies from state to state, just as the laws and what hours are considered “night time.” Night hour requirements are actually rather low, typically only about 10 hours out of the 50 to 120 total.

Are There Glare Reducing Glasses for Night Driving?

It’s actually fairly easy to find glasses that help with night driving. These glasses help you see better in the dark and reduce glare from other cars. They are available by many sellers, including Amazon, and are often called “night vision” glasses.

However, you will want to be careful when selecting a pair of glasses, as it’s possible they will actually block out too much light. This would defeat their purpose and only make it more difficult to see.

In fact, since these glasses tend to have UV protection, you can also use them during the daytime as sunglasses. Just remember that these are not replacements for your normal vision glasses.

Wrap Up

Driving during the night can prove more difficult than driving during the day, and the most important thing to consider is your safety. Even for people with good vision, you may have difficulty seeing due to inadequate lighting and glare. So, you should always take precautions and prepare for driving during night time hours.

Also, while you may take all the necessary precautions, it is important to remember that others may not. Try to remain aware of your surroundings and cautious of the other drivers around you. But, don’t forget to try and have fun and enjoy the quiet, the wind, and the gorgeous lights peppering the night sky.

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