This is the 2nd installment in our mini-series on improving your eyesight while driving. Last month, we introduced several sources of glare, but we did not discuss how they affect us and what we can do to effectively counter them. The more light our eyes receive and the clearer the images are, the faster our brains are able to process the input to respond. Glare while driving is a major cause of automobile accidents, and reducing glare while optimizing clarity of vision are chief concerns for the driver and their eye doctor.
From Front to Back: Maximizing our Eyesight & Reducing Glare While Driving
- Headlights have the impossible job of accomplishing 2 conflicting tasks: they need to properly illuminate the road for a safe distance in front of you, while not projecting light so high that it debilitates the vision of the oncoming drivers. Headlights are highly engineered and manufactured to strike the perfect balance of the 2 opposing objectives. Scratched or hazy headlight lenses diffract (scatter) light and increase the glare for both the driver and oncoming traffic. Make sure headlight lenses are kept clean and free of debris. It is ideal to polish or replace old headlight lenses that have become hazy with age. Auto supply stores sell headlight lens polishing kits. Alternately, you may have your auto mechanic/detailer address the issue. HID (high intensity discharge) or Xenon headlights illuminate the roadway best, but they must be aimed and aligned properly.
- Windshield: keep the outside AND the inside of your windshield clean. We all know the outside is important, but the inside of the windshield is important too. It is common to neglect the inside of the windshield, but fumes from cleaning products and regular use of the car will cause the inside of the windshield to become covered in a hazy film. This film inside of the glass is even worse if cigarette smoking occurs in the car. Replace windshield wipers regularly to avoid streaking. A good rule of thumb is to replace wiper blades once or twice a year, depending on how frequently they’ve been needed over the last few seasons. We’ve all probably had the unfortunate experience of being caught with streaking wipers in a storm that suddenly reduced our ability to see on the road.
- Prescription Eyeglasses & Contact Lenses: How light enters your eyes via corrective lenses is a major limiting factor. No amount of cleaning the windshield or optimizing your headlights can overcome blurry images from out-of-focus corrective lenses. Keeping your prescription eyewear and contact lenses current with quality optical products are the most effective, controllable, and least expensive methods for you to optimize your vision while driving. Even a prescription that is just “a little off” can have a dramatic effect while driving, especially at night.
- Annual examinations with your eye doctor. Don’t cut corners on inferior optical products, or you may otherwise pay with visual discomfort and reduced acuity.
- Use a non-glare eyeglass lens treatment (Crizal is one brand) to reduce glare, reflections, and improve light transmittance into the eyes.
- Use sunglasses when driving, either prescription or non-prescription. Polarized lenses are far superior to non-polarized lenses for glare reduction while driving.
In part 3 of the our series next month, we’ll go “behind the glasses” to see how various parts of the eye can affect our vision. The cornea, pupil size, cataracts, and the retina are areas of the ocular anatomy that need attention and optimal functioning to keep us safe on the road.