24 October 2023

Public urged to wear their glasses for night driving

Nearly a quarter of UK drivers who have been advised to wear glasses while driving admit to not wearing them behind the wheel.

As the clocks go back into Greenwich Mean Time, and the nights draw in, experts at The College of Optometrists are urging those drivers who have been advised to wear glasses while driving, to don their spectacles before getting behind the wheel.

A new research survey, commissioned by The College of Optometrists, has revealed the concerning number of drivers who require glasses to drive on the roads, but drive without them.

60% of UK drivers have been advised to wear glasses while driving, but nearly a quarter of these (24%) admitted that they do not always wear them when behind the wheel

Driving at night is much more dangerous than in full daylight. Depth perception, colour recognition and peripheral vision can all be compromised in the dark and as we age, we have greater difficulty seeing at night.

It is so important therefore for all drivers, and especially older drivers, to ask themselves the question, ‘Can I see to drive?’ at this time of year, and to regularly check the number plate test to ensure they meet the vision standards for driving. If the answer is not a definite ‘Yes’, a visit to the optometrist is essential.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney MBE FCOptom is a Clinical Adviser at the College of Optometrists and a practicing optometrist. He explains:

“In low light conditions the pupils of your eyes become larger to allow more light in, but the wider divergence of light rays, or light scattering, can make your vision blurry.

“This means that if you wear glasses for distance vision you become more reliant on your distance glasses on darker days and nights, and especially when driving at night.

“Also, while driving it is important to ensure your windscreen is clean and clear inside and out, and that any glasses you do wear for driving are free of dirt and scratches and your prescription is up to date.”

Beware of glare

An additional, modern-day hazard of night driving is being dazzled by oncoming headlights. 76% of those surveyed said they had found this to be a problem.

The introduction of brighter, LED headlamps and the increasing number of larger SUV-type vehicles on the road, can make for uncomfortable glare from oncoming traffic at nighttime.

The headlights on SUVs are higher up than on smaller vehicles, which means they can shine directly into the eyes of an oncoming driver.

Daniel says: “To protect yourself from this kind of glare and drive more comfortably and safely at night there are things you can do.

“While wearing the latest prescription will provide the best vision, one solution for people who wear glasses to drive is to wear a pair with an anti-reflection coating. These may reduce distracting internal reflections from headlights without causing the driver’s view of the road to become noticeably darker. Avoid lenses with yellow-coloured filters, as these are not proven to help and may even be dangerous, as the tint makes dark parts of the road appear even darker.”

“Certain eye conditions can cause increased glare too. Astigmatism, where the front of the eye is slightly mis-shapen, or the onset of cataracts or dry-eye can exacerbate it, so if you haven’t noticed a problem with the glare from headlights, traffic lights or streetlamps before when driving at night, contact your local optometrist who will be able to provide advice.”

Other challenges

Some of the other biggest night driving challenges cited drivers were driving in rain, fog or snow (42%) and not being able to see potholes in the road (29%). Nearly a fifth of drivers surveyed (18%) were worried about not being able to see a cyclist while driving in the dark and 17% were worried they would miss seeing a pedestrian.

Daniel ends: “If you don’t need your glasses all the time, but have been advised to wear them driving, keep a pair in the glove compartment of your car. That way you always have them when you really do need them.”

Key messages

  • We're urging all drivers to attend regular sight tests, as recommended by their optometrist
  • If drivers develop eye symptoms, or feel there is a change in their vision, they should contact their optometrist in the first instance
  • Drivers should wear their glasses for driving if they have been advised to.

We're in the media!

Our Clinical Advisers have been sharing their advice on night driving now that the days are getting shorter and the clocks will be going back. They've been featured on top TV and radio shows, including: 

  • BBC Radio Scotland
  • BBC Solent
  • BBC Radio Somerset
  • London Live TV
  • Plus more!

Catch-up on their interviews, raising public awareness about the importance of eye health and the vital role optometrists play.

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