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Why It's Difficult to See While Driving at Night

Many people have trouble driving at night. In the dark, your depth perception, peripheral vision, color recognition, and more are all compromised. You may think you have perfect vision during the day, but it can be a whole different story once the sun goes down. Learn the difficulties with driving in the dark, their possible causes, and any potential ways to improve your night vision.

Driving at Night
Driving at night issues

Common Issues with Night Driving

  • Trouble seeing dashboard: Having issues seeing objects up close such as the dashboard, could be signs of farsightedness, or hyperopia. For those over the age of 40, this could be the start of presbyopia. Schedule an eye exam with your optometrist to discover what eye condition could be causing this.
  • Difficulty seeing road signs: Having trouble seeing objects far away such as road signs, hazards, and pedestrians, could be signs of nearsightedness. You should be checked for myopia at the eye doctor.
  • Headlights causing glare: Headlights from oncoming traffic can cause glares and be distracting. Wearing glasses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating is the best option to reduce glare and improve clarity while driving at night.
  • Fuzzy lights: Lights can appear fuzzy, steaky, or with halos around them at night. These can be the effects of astigmatism. Talk to your eye doctor since this can easily be corrected with glasses or contacts.

Ways to Improve Your Vision for Night Driving

  • Get annual eye exams to keep your prescription up to date and visit the eye doctor if you experience any changes in your vision.
  • Clean your glasses regularly so that they are free of any debris or smudges that could make glare worse.
  • Dim the lights on your dashboard since the brightness can be distracting.
  • Clean your headlights if they are foggy to keep them shining bright.
  • Keep your windshield clean on the inside and outside to improve visibility.
  • Replace your windshield wipers regularly so they continue working properly.
Ways to improve night time driving

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are night vision glasses?

A: Night driving glasses have non-prescription, yellow-tinted lenses. They are meant to reduce glare, block blue light, and may also have an anti-reflective coating.

Q: Do night driving glasses work?

A: While night vision glasses are proven to eliminate reflections and increase contrast, their dark lenses (ranging from yellow to brown) can adversely reduce visibility. According to a study done in 2019 by researchers at the Harvard’s Eye Research Institute, yellow-lens night driving glasses did not appear to improve the detection of pedestrians at night. Therefore, they do not increase visibility in low light.

Q: What’s night blindness?

A: Night blindness, or nyctalopia, refers to vision impairment at night—not complete blindness. The eyes struggle to transition from light to darkness. This can happen when the iris muscles weaken and the pupil sizes decrease from age, starting at around 40 years of age. Various other eye conditions such as nearsightedness, cataracts, and macular degeneration or health conditions such as vitamin A deficiency or diabetes can be the reason for night vision worsening. Visit your eye doctor to determine the causes of your night blindness.

Q: Is it better to drive in contacts or glasses?

A: Contacts and glasses each have their own pros and cons with late-night driving, so it’s mainly based on preference. Glasses generally provide sharper clarity than contacts do but can cause glares and obstruct your peripheral vision based on the frame. The contacts that provide the sharpest vision would be rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, but they are difficult to adjust to and can also cause glares. Air conditioning coming out of the car vents can also lead to dry eyes with contacts in. Try both and see what works best for you.

Q: How do I reduce glare on my glasses?

A: Glares from headlights are already bad at night and eyeglasses can make those worse. Keep your glasses clean and free of any smudges. Choose eyeglasses with lenses that can have an anti-reflective coating added on.

Contact your eye doctor if you are experiencing vision issues while driving at night.

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