Night driving is a source of worry for many people with 81 per cent of drivers scared to drive after dark, according to a new survey from Ford. At the same time, experts say the risk of being in a fatal crash is three times higher at night.
However, new lighting technologies could help make getting behind the wheel after dark a more comfortable and potentially safer experience.
For example, the all-new Ford Focus is the first to introduce technology that uses road signs and lane markings to illuminate the road ahead, such as widening the beam when approaching a roundabout so that drivers are able to see pedestrians and cyclists at the kerbside more easily.
Adaptive Front Lighting System
Rather than depending on GPS mapping, which does not always reflect the latest road layout changes (across Europe 15 per cent of road layouts change every year), Ford’s new system offers real-world warning of what lies ahead.
By harnessing camera and lighting technologies, Ford’s new Adaptive Front Lighting System tracks lane markings so that it can direct headlamps into curves before the driver has even turned the wheel.
Says Michael Koherr, lighting research engineer, Ford of Europe:
“The dream is that night driving need be no more difficult than driving in the day. Our latest lighting technologies are part of our plan to make that a reality.”
The front facing camera on the Ford Focus already supports technologies that help drivers keep the vehicle centred in the lane, maintain a comfortable driving distance from vehicles ahead and warn drivers against driving the wrong way onto a motorway, claims Ford.
Mounted on the inside of the windscreen, below the rear-view mirror, it can monitor road signs and markings up to 65 metres ahead, enabling the system’s dynamic bending function to come into play much sooner than if only reliant on steering inputs.
Further functions of the Adaptive Front Lighting System include preventing drivers from dazzling others on the road using the Glare-Free Highbeam function – lighting technology that removes the guilt of accidentally dazzling other drivers and enabling you to see more of the road ahead.
The technology avoids drivers having to dip their headlights by simply blocking those rays that would otherwise shine in the eyes of other road-users. Studies have shown that automated high-beam headlights are activated up to 10 times more than when drivers have to switch to high-beam themselves.
Koherr and his team are also now developing new spot lighting technology that uses an infra-red camera to locate and track people, cyclists and bigger animals up to 120 metres away.
TOP TIPS TO STAY SAFE ON ROADS IN THE DARK
It’s not just drivers and riders who need to be more careful. Vulnerable road users such as pedestrians also need to be aware of the dangers too. IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman, has put together some tips to keep road users safe.
- If you’re a pedestrian walking in the dark, take notice of the state of the pavement and if possible, walk in a well-lit area. Carrying a wind-up torch will help you and a driver on the road – and it’s a lot safer than using the torch on your phone.
- Some rural roads do not have pavements, and although we would never suggest walking on the road in the dark, you may have set off as a pedestrian when it’s light and the sun may be setting as you’re walking. As a pedestrian, plan to get to your destination before it gets dark. And as a driver, remember that not all rural roads have a pavement
- Drive every road as if you’ve never done it before as the road situation could be different each time. When travelling, don’t take away your local knowledge of the roads, but be prepared as the information and circumstances can change from day to day
- Reduce your speed, understand the limit of your vision and plan ahead. The limit of your vision at night is often the limit of your headlight beam which is where you must be able to stop
- If you’re travelling through a rural area at night, it’s possible for a herd of deer to cross the road, so those signs warning you of wild animals you’ll have previously passed will suddenly make sense. Take a look at our tips to help prevent any deer-related collisions
- Wear the right driving gear. This may sound obvious but you’ll be surprised at the amount of people who don’t. The right footwear is crucial, and make sure your clothes are comfortable to drive in