In the final of the three stages of graduated driver licensing, there is a provisional licensing stage, which includes a nighttime driving restriction. I remember getting my license and having to wait what seemed like forever to be able to drive after dark. Maybe that’s you - maybe this article caught your eye because you are sick of being unable to drive legally past a certain hour. “I’m a good driver,” you might say to yourself. “Why should there be any limit on when I drive?”
The fact is that night driving can be really dangerous, and while it might seem like a good idea, it requires the utmost caution. Even if you are past the provisional license stage, before you choose to do an overnight or past-your-bedtime drive, you should know some things about night driving, darkness, and common supplements like caffeine that you might not already be aware of.
- Darkness naturally makes you sleepier.
Fact: feeling tired when the sun goes down has more to it than your sleep schedule. If you want the long version, click here. But in short, exposure to light diminishes the release of melatonin and similar sleep-necessary hormones, while dark drives them in. Basically, your body reacts to light or lack of light by waking up or going to sleep by nature, not nurture. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t fight it - but naturally you’re fighting less during the day, or you should be.
- Darkness naturally makes other drivers sleepy, as well.
As if it wasn’t enough that your body is prone to more mistakes at night, so are other people’s bodies! And I promise you you’re not the only one driving tonight - so keep in mind that on some level, nobody on the road is naturally at their best. Stay extra aware, and if you can, bring another person to stay up with you and keep your mind awake.
- Caffeine isn’t a cure all for fatigue.
A common misconception is that sleep equals totally no awareness, and thus being awake equals awareness. In reality, correlation still does not mean causation, and this is what makes night driving especially dangerous - being an awake driver doesn’t mean you’re an aware driver. That said, caffeine isn’t a magic drug that makes you not need sleep, studies have shown. It can keep you awake, but you can be unaware as ever.
- Driving at night isn’t something you “get” to do.
While you may be legally able to drive late at night soon, that never means you should. By doing so you put yourself as well as other people in harm’s way. Please do not view this ever as something to be excited about or something that you can do. Maybe a better question should be “is this something I need to do? I would be willing to bet that 9 out of 10 times, it’s not.
- Safety first… even when you don’t feel like it.
It should definitely be stated that safety, particularly in life-challenging cases, should come first. If you can’t make it to your destination, find a place to pull over and nap if you feel comfortable and safe doing so. However, it’d be best to just not make the drive when you’re tired in the first place - if you can, just don’t even step foot through that door.
Robert Lanterman is a freelance writer and unprofessional musician from Boise, ID. Learn about his love for Jesus, pizza, and obscure punk bands at Twitter.