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Driving the Hours of Darkness

One of my favourite times for driving is at night or in the early morning; and by early morning I mean well before ‘sparrow’s fart’.  The roads are mostly empty and everything is quiet and serene.  It is possible to travel during the hours of darkness and quite quickly cover the ground.  Here are some definite advantages of travelling by night, with a few of the disadvantages thrown in as well.

First of all there is nothing quite like the fresh, cool air that you get during nightfall.  A lot of the wildlife has settled for the night and the night air has a pristine smell that I love.  When you get out and stretch and take a break during the night drive, the air is always satisfying and refreshing – but just as long as it’s not a frog strangling gulley washer!  You can hear the silence with only the odd chirp or bark, squeak or rustle of wind filling the air.  Just after midnight, the roads are mostly empty and it can be an ideal time to drive.  You will get the odd long haul truck unit doing the intercity run, but on the whole, I find driving at night to be pretty relaxing.

Who doesn’t like getting places faster?  At night, driving with very few other vehicles on the road means that you can keep up a steadier speed at higher velocity which allows you to cover the ground in a shorter amount of time.  You can hit the speed limit and stay at it for longer.  This is a win-win because it also links in with fuel efficiency, which I’ll touch on later.

Not having the sun about means the night air is cooler, which is a phenomenon that’s rather nice in a hot sunny country by-day – like it is in Australia.  Your air-conditioning requirements are not quite so demanding, therefore avoiding the need to pump through gallons of cool fresh air at maximum levels in order to keep cool inside the car.  You also have less heat streaming in through the closed windows and onto your skin, another nice feature about night driving.  Sun strike is not a problem, either.

If you are getting from A to B quicker at night, then it is obvious that the lack of traffic will mean that the drive will be more fuel efficient.  Because there are fewer cars on the road, your speed is even and you avoid the stop and go motion of other cars around you.  There actions and choices slow you down, and the more of these the slower you go as they the weave in and out of your lane and generally make life more stressful. Because you’re avoiding other cars by travelling at night, you are going to get better fuel efficiency.  A steady higher speed is good for economy.  Putting a lighter load on the air-conditioning system by driving at night in the cooler air is also good for fuel economy.  More economic, cooler, more relaxed, quicker and more fuel efficient at night: now who doesn’t like that?

When you do need to refuel at a gas station, getting fuel at night is a breeze, with nobody around other than the sleepy cashier.  And there are even no cashiers at card-only fuel stations.

As with most things, there can be a downside to night driving.  Yes, you could get sleepy when driving during the hours that you’re normally in bed.  Not many shops open; and should you want to stop for a sleep, then most motels are closed up by 9/10 pm.  Kangaroos and other larger creatures still wander, shuffle or bounce onto the road from seemingly out of nowhere in the dark.  They can even do this in daylight, mind you…

Driving at night is/or can be fun and enjoyable.  I personally enjoy it but realise that it’s not for everyone.  After I have done a long haul at night, I do tend to take things pretty cruisy the next day, while ensuring I get a great night’s sleep the following night.  I sense a few roadies coming on; it is the festive season, after all.

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