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Night Rider: Driving at Night Made Safer

Driving at night means taking extra safety precautions. Statistics prove that you are three times more likely to have a fatal car accident at night than during the day. Low visibility and fatigue are contributing factors to these statistics. Car manufacturers are introducing features to help minimize these risks and help you arrive safely at your destination. Here are just some of the features available both in and outside the car that make driving at night safer.

Exterior Technology for Safer Nighttime Driving

HID (high-intensity discharge) lighting is the latest technology in automotive lighting. Using a mixture of Xenon gasses and metal salts within the glass tube bulb, HID lights — like those found on the 2014 Buick Regal — emit a brilliant blueish-white light that burns much brighter per watt of power than conventional halogen lighting. This blueish-white light is also a cooler temperature on the light spectrum compared to the yellow light output from a halogen light. The cooler the light on the light spectrum, the less stress it places on the human eye. This reduction in eye stress reduces driver fatigue.

It's one thing to have bright lights, but vehicle manufacturers are taking lighting to the next level by introducing technology such as active articulating headlights to improve nighttime driving safety. These headlights actually follow the road as you steer around bends. Sensors detect vehicle speed and steering wheel movement to move the lights in the direction of travel using small electric motors in the headlight recess. They help you see objects sooner, giving you a better chance at responding to any obstacles on the road.

For example: Say you're making a late-night trip home after a long vacation trip. You've decided to beat the holiday traffic by taking the back roads and avoiding the highways. The roads are narrow and windy, but at least there's no traffic and you can now make some decent time. Visibility is low and you know these country roads have plenty of wildlife that can be hard to see at night. Adaptive articulating headlights follow bends in the road as well as rises and falls in the road, meaning that you have 100 percent of your car's headlight lighting pointing exactly in the direction of travel. You spot that deer on the road long before it's too late, and you're able to slow down in time and give it a chance to get off the road.

It's not only the driver who benefits from this technology. It also reduces headlight glare to oncoming traffic by dipping lights when traveling over rises so that the lights stay pointing at the road, not into the eyes of oncoming drivers. A driver of an oncoming car temporarily dazzled by your headlights can be a recipe for disaster and has been the cause of many head-on collisions at night.

Interior Technology for Safer Nighttime Driving

The constant bright lights from both oncoming traffic and traffic approaching from behind in your mirrors can cause your eyes to become stressed, which increases your fatigue levels. Technology such as auto-dimming rear-vision mirrors use photo cell sensors to detect the amount of light being projected onto the mirror's surface and automatically dim the mirror when necessary.

Being warm and comfortable is one way of helping you get to sleep, but it may not really be what you want when you're trying to stay awake on those overnight trips. Dual-zone or even tri-zone climate control air-conditioning lets the driver adjust his or her settings independently of the rest of the car: What if you've spent all weekend at the lake house, and it's time to head home on Sunday evening to make it back in time for the weekly grind? The kids are worn out from playing all weekend, and 10 minutes in to the journey, they're already asleep. You want them to stay asleep for the trip home so they'll be refreshed for school tomorrow, so you turn the heat up to make them comfortable. However, you need to stay awake and alert for the drive home, so you can set the driver position to cool to help you stay alert for the trip.

Safety technology in the modern passenger car is not all just about crash protection. Crash prevention is even more important, and while when it comes to fatigue there's no better prevention than being well rested and taking a break when you get tired, there are certainly plenty of features both inside and outside the car that can make driving at night safer. Giving yourself better night visibility and staying more alert will help you and your family stay safe on the roads at night.