A great deal of misconceptions exists about night driving, and night driving eyewear is actually a highly sought-after product. In addition to some significant considerations to keep in mind, drivers must realize that there really is no catch-all solution.
Before trying night vision eyewear for driving, be sure to employ the tips provided in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1 as well as the additional tips provided by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
If night driving eyewear still interests you after considering the other options available, keep in mind the following points regarding eyewear that may or may not improve night vision.
Lens Color and Night Vision
There are two main reasons people look for night driving glasses. First, they want to enhance contrast and depth perception in dim light. Second, they want to reduce glare from oncoming headlights. But can lens color really provide any solutions to nighttime driving vision problems?
Enhancing Contrast and Depth Perception
Enhancing contrast and depth perception when driving at night can only be achieved during the few hours before and during dusk or at other times that are dim without being dark. A yellow/amber lens can brighten surroundings using the small amount of light available. However, these lenses require the presence of some light since benefits are lost when darkness fully descends. After dark, not much can help improve visibility.
Even with the possibility of a yellow/amber lens improving visibility for some people and in some conditions, the use of any tint once dusk hits is somewhat controversial. In fact, eye experts at Laramy-K Optical strongly discourage the use of yellow lenses for dusk and night driving because “ANY tint further reduces the amount of light transmitted to the eye.” They also quote Dr. Merrill J. Allen from the Forensic Aspects of Vision and Highway Safety who says that yellow lenses can “actually impair visual performances and retard glare recovery.”
Reducing Glare from Oncoming Headlights
This goal is achieved using almost any tint other than clear. However, the need to reduce glare from oncoming headlights usually applies in the dark when headlights appear even brighter by contrast. This type of glare is different than that generated by the sun. Thus, a polarized lens, which is by far the best for reducing sun glare, will not have the same benefit against headlights.
To reduce headlight glare, a dark mirror lens would likely be most effective. Unfortunately, this type of lens is neither practical nor advisable in the dark. Arguably, the best alternative then is an indoor/outdoor lens with a light mirror coating over a clear lens. However, even this type of lens only allows 50-60% light transmission, so it will darken not just the view of the lights but total surroundings as well. Obviously, this presents a danger with the already dark conditions of nighttime.
So what’s the best choice?
Experts at Safety Glasses USA advise customers to “please choose wisely,” and to cease using any lens if it impairs vision. Customers must realize that there is no perfect or even ideal type of night driving glasses because there are too many variables such as one’s sensitivity to light, one’s natural ability to see in the dark, the varying environmental light conditions and driver objectivity.
The bottom line remains that having perfect vision for driving at dawn, dusk or nighttime simply isn’t possible. The first approach should be to remove any obstacles to clear vision, such as those suggested in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1.
Should you choose to experiment with night driving glasses or even with various lens tints, know that eye experts warn against this as a safe option.