Don’t be in the dark about night driving

Do you know the correct term for being afraid of the dark – or are you too scared to find out?

Nyctophobia – that’s the proper name for it - can be traced back to our cave-dwelling ancestors, who were more at risk of being attacked by predators in the dark, say some experts.

But now it seems we’re out of the cave and into a tunnel of worries about night blindness, with the fear of hitting someone – or something – topping a new poll of night-time driving fears commissioned by Ford.

Help is at hand, however. For the first time, Ford is introducing new technology designed to detect pedestrians at night and automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not respond to initial warnings.

Of thousands of drivers surveyed across Europe, 81 per cent admit to being scared on the roads at night, rising to 87 per cent for women. More than half say poor night vision is a source of stress, and more than a third worry they might be involved in an accident. Fears that they may hit a pedestrian were highlighted by one in five drivers surveyed.

Pedestrian Detection processes information from a radar located in the bumper, and a windscreen‑mounted camera. A database of “pedestrian shapes” enables the system to distinguish people from objects such as trees and road signs. The camera delivers more than 30 snapshots every second – faster than a cinema projector. The video live-feed and wide viewing angle enables the system to pick out pedestrians, even in low-light conditions, illuminated only by the headlights.

If the system detects an imminent collision with a pedestrian, it first provides audible and visual warnings to the driver. Should the driver not respond, the system automatically applies the brakes. Later this year, the more advanced Pedestrian Detection technology will be introduced on the next generation Fiesta.

Here are a few ways to make driving at night easier:

  • Ensure windows and mirrors are clean and free of ice and condensation
  • Clean all exterior lights and check they work, keep spare bulbs in the car
  • On unlit roads, put headlights on full beam and dip them for oncoming vehicles
  • Don’t drive tired or for more than two hours without a break
  • Schedule regular optician appointments to check your vision

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