Winter driving is not only challenging due to icy and snowy conditions. It is also dark for more hours of the day than it is light. With up to nearly 15 hours per day in darkness, it’s dark during part of the morning and evening commute. MassDOT and MAPFRE Insurance want to remind you of the safety precautions to take when traveling during the dark.
We face a lot of obstacles when driving in darkness. This includes compromised vision, the possibility of drowsiness, and the increased risk of impaired drivers. Our visibility during these hours typically can only reach about 500 feet with high beams on. With normal headlights, that number is reduced to 250 feet. This gives us less time to react to objects, signs, or pedestrians.
To be sure that you are seeing the road and your surroundings as best as you can, make sure your windshields are clean and your headlights and taillights are in good working order. It is also a good idea to turn on your headlights an hour before sundown, to be sure other drivers can see you. Keep your high beams off for other drivers, as it could temporarily disrupt their vision. Also be aware for yourself to not stare into other headlights. Reduce your speed and increase your distance to give you more time to react to potential incidents. Pedestrians like joggers or bikers should wear reflective gear, but this isn’t always the case. That’s why is extremely important to double-check your visibility and slow down.
While distracted driving should always be a concern, the dangers increase at night because of the shortened time to react. Keep phones out of reach and be mindful of other distractions, such as tuning the radio or eating. Avoid driving if you feel overtired. If you must travel long distances during what is typically sleeping hours, take breaks every 100 miles, have an awake passenger with you, and stop driving as soon as you feel overtired. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 2015 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 1 in 3 drivers (31.5%) admitted to driving within the prior 30 days when they were so tired that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. Sleepiness slows your reaction time, decreases awareness, and impairs your judgement, just like drugs or alcohol. Impaired driving increases during these night time hours. Fatal alcohol-related accidents are four times higher at night than during the day. Never get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or drugs, and keep an eye out for impaired drivers on the road. If you witness an impaired driver, keep a safe distance and safely call 9-1-1.
We advocate for driver safety throughout the year, and the MassDOT Highway Assistance Program sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance will help with fixing minor mechanical problems, flat tires, fuel shortages, and emergency situations. The Highway Assistance Program patrols the state’s busiest highways and turnpikes around Metro Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Cape Cod (seasonal). The Highway Assistance Patrol covers 13 major state roadways and interstates, the Emergency Service Patrol covers the Mass Pike (I-90) from New York to Boston and the Incident Response Operators cover the Metropolitan Highway System and tunnels. The Highway Assistance Patrol is in service Monday–Friday between the hours of 6 a.m.–10 a.m. and 3 p.m.–7 p.m. During holidays, there are extended routes in heavy traffic areas. On I-90, and in Boston’s tunnel system, assistance is provided 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Drive carefully and enjoy a safe year in 2020!
Written By Patrick McDonald, CPCU, CEO, Northeast Region, MAPFRE Insurance
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