Although we rely on our vision for many areas of our life, good visual acuity is essential for driving. In fact, it is so important that the driver’s visual capabilities are assessed before they can achieve their driver’s license and might be checked again at license renewals depending on individual state regulations. Nevertheless, it isn’t just our visual acuity that factors into how well we can see when we drive. The weather plays a huge role in determining driving conditions, and bright sunshine can be just as hazardous as heavy rain or ice. The reason for this is something called glare. Fortunately, this can be resolved with a very simple solution – wearing sunglasses.
In some parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom, not wearing sunglasses behind the wheel could see you receiving a hefty fine. Although the act itself isn’t a legal requirement, if you cause an accident because of your inability to see, you could be convicted of careless driving. This may seem like an overreaction, but studies have found that being dazzled by bright sunlight is a contributing factor in as many as six-vehicle collisions every day.
Here’s what you need to know about glare and the risks of driving without sunglasses.
Glare is a visual sensation that is caused by excessive and uncontrolled brightness. When glare occurs where is too much light and as this light enters our eyes it can interfere with our vision, making it hard to see and even causing us pain. When we experience glare, it can distort our vision, create illusions and even blind spots. When this is happening at speed, even just a low speed, it can be extremely dangerous.
Anyone can experience glare, but it tends to get worse with advancing age and certain eye conditions such as dry eye, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Surprisingly, not all glare is the same and there are four different varieties named for the effects that they cause.
Distracting glare: this type of glare comes from light reflected off of glass, such as that which is reflected in the front of glasses lenses that prevent others from seeing your eyes. It can also be found at night, creating halos around streetlights or headlights. As its name suggests, this type of glare can be distracting, diverting your attention from what you should be focused on – in this case, driving!
Discomforting glare: this can be caused by both direct or reflected light, varying in intensity and causing eyestrain, fatigue and discomfort. As a result, the sufferer will squint or shield their eyes, compromising their vision.
Blinding glare: this type of glare occurs when light reflects off of smooth, shiny surfaces like snow, sand or water. It gets its name from the fact that it can be so intense that it can render the sufferer temporarily so visually compromised that they are essentially blind. As soon as the glare passes, vision is restored.
Disabling glare: more intense than discomforting glare, but not as severe as blinding glare, this variety usually arises from direct light passing from the sun into the eyes. Unsurprisingly, it can substantially compromise your vision.
If you typically rely on glasses to see clearly when driving, you will still need to wear your prescription lenses. However, these can be combined into sunglasses lenses enabling you to enjoy clear visual acuity and protection from glare whilst driving. Many patients choose to have two pairs of glasses – one regular and one as sunglasses. Speak to our team if this is something that you wish to explore.
Some sunglasses are better for driving than others. Here are our top tips for choosing the best driving sunglasses.
Keep yourself and other road users safe by wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from glare. Contact our office for more information.