Open your eyes to driving in the dark - Finchley's Multi-Award Winning Opticians Practice

Open your eyes to driving in the dark

It’s a cold, gloomy night. You’re driving home, looking forward to the comfort of a night spent huddled under the blankets, catching up on TV. But the light outside is vastly reduced, the road ahead seems blurry and the glare from oncoming headlights seem to blaze right through your eyes.

As the nights draw in earlier, are you one of the many people who experience these changes?

Who is affected?
Most of us are aware that driving at night is more challenging than driving in the daytime. We make natural compensations for this as we drive but it is a fact that more road accidents happen at night than during the day.

Research has shown that, at very low light levels, people notice their vision is more reduced. Combine this with the fact that glare from headlamps adds an additional hazard. The experience of driving changes significantly as the clocks go back

What changes affect our ability to see when driving at night?
The most common changes occur because of the following: we all become more short-sighted at night, it is much harder to see detail in lower light conditions, drivers are more sensitive to glare and drivers tend to be more tired at night.

Can you explain why objects still seem somewhat hazy when I drive at night?
Road lighting levels at night are noticeably reduced than those found by day. This has the effect of enlarging the pupil of the eye more than under brighter conditions. The enlargement in pupil size can emphasize any flaws in focusing, causing blur. If you become aware of this, it is likely your current glasses or contact lenses need altering or an optical correction may be required. Your optometrist can instruct you further on this.

I’ve had my glasses checked but have noticed haloes and reflections around lights and headlights which distinctly bother my eyes. What can I do about this?
A frequent reason for haloes and reflections is a grimy windscreen (both inside and out). In a similar way that scratched or dirty spectacle lenses can lead to unwanted dispersed light. It is therefore advisable to always give your windscreen and glasses a wipe before driving at night. Moreover, reflections from the surfaces of spectacle lenses can frequently cause numerous appearances of lights at night. If you become aware of these, look into using higher quality anti-reflection and anti-glare lens coatings. Contact us for further details.

Is it just an inevitable part of getting older?
Regrettably, a number of changes in the eye can add to a glare during night driving, especially among older drivers. This is generally caused by cataracts which have a similar effect to when you look through a grimy window. Wearing spectacles cannot change this and it is, therefore, advisable to drive less at night. If oncoming headlights are particularly distracting, try focusing on the nearside kerb as you drive – but ensure you remember to reduce your speed! Other age-related changes to be aware of are: the ability for the eyes to adapt to lower light levels becomes reduced and early macula degeneration can also make people more sensitive to glare.

Do amber night driving glasses help? I’ve seen them advertised in the press..
There is no proof that these lenses boost vision on the road and in fact, tinted lenses may worsen your sight. Windscreen tints have an equivalent effect and this is why the Highway Code urges drivers to refrain from using any kind of tint at night.

How about the blue night driving lights publicised for use within the car?
These are not endorsed as they will make the eye pupil contract and may therefore lessen the glare from impending headlights. This can also make it more difficult to observe the road ahead.


Our Top 5 tips to ensure your sight is the best at night

  1. Get your eyes examined regularly (An eye examination is recommended for most every two years).
  2. Check that you’re wearing an up-to-date pair of distance spectacles or contact lenses. Ensure that the lenses are clean and free of scratches. If possible, keep a backup pair in the car.
  3. Refrain from using tinted lenses but do get them with an anti-reflection coating.
  4. Clean the windscreen routinely, inside and out.
  5. Ensure your car’s lighting is working efficiently.

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