Top Tips for Highway Driving at Night

Date Posted: June 18, 2020

Driving at night

High speeds and low visibility – highway driving at night can be daunting. Road fatalities triple at night, and can be 7X riskier for L and P platers. Add in remote locations, animal strikes and fast-moving trucks, things can get challenging.

Here are some tips to get you through the journey safely and on time.

Animal Strikes:

kangaroo road sign

We always think of kangaroos, wallabies and wombats here in Australia, but did you know that wild deer have been found in Australia since 1861?

Generally speaking, animals are more active at dawn and especially dusk, but they also pose significant risks at night. They don’t usually associate bright lights getting brighter and brighter with danger – hence the old saying: to ‘freeze like a deer in headlights’. Sounds do alert them. Quieter vehicles like hybrids and all-electric vehicles are more at danger as their road noise gives less warning to animals nearby. Driving at night on highways is safer when in groups of cars rather than a single vehicle.

If you encounter an animal, avoid swerving if possible as this can cause serious accidents. You’re better off braking hard and keeping on the road. Generally, the smaller the animal, the less you should consider swerving.


headlights at night

– Angle

Most modern cars allow for on-the-fly, in-cabin headlight angle adjustments. Older cars’ headlights need to be adjusted manually, often with tools – always check the owner’s manual. Aim too high, you’ll blind other drivers, too low and you won’t see far enough ahead. Again, the owner’s manual is worth a read as brightness and ride height come into play. 

– Gauge Cluster

These can be dimmed and brightened from inside the cabin in pretty much all cars. Map lights, phones and infotainment screens all create extra light pollution which can diminish visibility. Try to keep your cabin dark with a not-too-bright gauge cluster when driving at night.

– Brightness

Standard headlights have three levels when turned on: parking lights (fog lights), full beams and high beams (the brightest). If you’re driving on a deserted highway at night, make sure you reduce your high beams back down to ‘full’ when another vehicle passes by. This will avoid blinding the driver with extremely bright lights. Always avoid looking at oncoming headlights too.

Some headlight covers oxidise over time. You may have seen a yellow colour forming on some older cars’ lights. This is caused by UV exposure and can really make a car look old. Luckily, they can be restored easily with a headlight restoration kit.

Windows and Mirrors:

rain drops on window

The cleaner, the better. Simple. Make sure you give your windows and mirrors a clean before driving at night, especially if driving on highways. Set your inside rear-view mirror to ‘night’ or ‘auto dim’ setting to reduce glare from cars driving behind you.

Windows have a tendency to fog up a lot – usually in colder climates with a few passengers in the vehicle. Obviously, it’s the a/c’s job to demist a windscreen by drying condensation with warm dry air. If problems persist, an anti-fog spray is a good option.


car distance in road

Tailgating (driving too close to the car in front of you) is extremely dangerous. During the daylight hours, the general rule is to leave a three-second gap between you and the car in front of you. This means the physical distance will increase as your speed increases. At night, be extra careful to leave at a bare minimum, three seconds, ideally more.

To determine seconds of distance, simply pick a marker ahead of you. For example, a sign, a side road or other clear marker, and count the seconds it takes you to reach that point.

At the End of the Day Night…

silhouette of family

Driving at night doesn’t have to be daunting or dangerous. Watching the sun rise or set as the landscape passes you by can really be a fantastic experience. Make sure to follow the above points and enjoy your travels in Australia.

Whether you’re driving in the daytime or nighttime on Australian highways, new challenges can present themselves. It’s worth checking out these highway tips.

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