Now that winter is well and truly upon us, millions more motorists are having to drive in the dark, even though over half of UK drivers admit to not being able to see clearly behind the wheel at night1.
The main issues with night time driving and vision, according to a new survey, are that things look blurred (68% said objects look slightly out of focus in dim light), night-time glare from artificial lighting (73%) and being dazzled by ongoing headlights (91% of drivers say they are regularly dazzled by oncoming vehicles) – a fact that is backed up by Government data that shows around 300 collisions every year are caused by glare from headlights.
Don’t be in the dark when it comes to night-time vision requirements
Dr. Andy Hepworth from Essilor.co.uk, a leader in optical lens technology, explains the simple measures that can be taken to improve night vision, as well as the extra precautions needed when driving in the dark.
Our vision is not adapted to night-time driving environments, and eye sensitivity is different in the daytime than at night. Therefore, driving in the dark, we are exposed to multiple and intense sources of light that create reflections and glare; the impact on vision is difficulty in adapting, reduced peripheral vision, decreased contrast sensitivity, increased response time, difficulties in motion perception and navigation issues.
Adjust your eyes to the dark before driving
Give yourself a few minutes in the car to allow your eyes to adjust to the lower light level before you start driving. Low light levels cause the pupil of the eye to become larger and this can accentuate any focusing errors – no matter how minor – causing blur. Low-light levels can similarly lead to a reduction in the contrast of objects.
At night it’s also more important than ever to wear a pair of spectacles or contact lenses with an up-to-date prescription. It’s a legal requirement that your vision meets standards for driving.
Keep your distance
It is more difficult to judge distance at night-time so allow extra space between you and the car in front as this gives more time to react to situations ahead of you.
Use anti-glare glasses lenses
Specially developed lens coating can reduce glare and reflection by up to 90% compared to a lens that has no anti-reflective treatment. This can help to remove distractions from glare caused by streetlights, traffic lights and headlights from other cars.
Keep windscreens smear-free
While not only making sure the outside of a front and back windscreen is clean and streak free, ensuring washer fluid is good quality and always topped up, keep a microfiber cloth in the glove box to clear any condensation and smears on the inside. And while you’re at it – give you glasses a wipe over too so they are smear free and clear. Scratched or smudged glasses will reduce image quality.
Regularly check and adjust mirrors
Advice on safe night driving includes regularly adjusting rear view mirrors to reduce glare from behind.
Some newer vehicles come with self-dimming rear-view mirror functionality, which is worth looking out for to help reduce glare.
Headlights not only help drivers to see better but are an important safety feature to be seen. Regularly check that all lights are in full working order. It is illegal to drive at night without fully-functioning headlights and police officers will stop vehicles that don’t comply with the guidelines.
Dip don’t dazzle
While taking steps to be safe from the dazzle of other driver’s headlights, it’s important that all drivers are taking the correct steps in their own vehicles. Adjust car headlights if you’re carrying varying loads and check that they are aligned properly. Headlamp aim forms part of a vehicle’s MOT, but ask your local garage to inspect that they are aligned properly whenever your vehicle goes in for a service. Also, always dip headlights when facing oncoming traffic.
Slow down or stop
Rule 237 of the Highway Code states that if you’re dazzled by bright sunlight ‘slow down or if necessary stop’. The same applies for being dazzled at night. If your vision is in any way causing concern, pull over in a safe place and take the necessary steps to try and improve vision (clearing a windscreen or adjusting mirrors).
Dr Andy Hepworth adds: “With such short days in the winter – and driving conditions frequently made worse by the British weather – often people have no choice but to drive in the dark or wet weather, which can play havoc on vision.
“Glare caused by natural or artificial light is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges – especially for spectacle wearers – which is why we developed a lens coating and lens design that is anti-reflective and designed for driving. Removing distractions caused by glare from streetlights, traffic lights and headlights from other cars could help to keep drivers safer on UK roads.
“Ensuring your eyesight is up to scratch is also crucial. Most people over the age of about 45 will need some vision correction to see in sharp focus, and everyone should have their eyes checked by an optician at least every two years as your sight can change without it being obvious.”
Advice by www.essilor.co.uk
- Survey by The PR Boutique on behalf of Essilor.co.uk, 1 October 2020, via online poll. Sample size 1,005.
Essilor’s Road Pilot lenses are designed to counter the effect of glare, with a unique Crizal® coating that has been developed for driving and adapts to light wave reflections, which are responsible for the blinding effect of intense lights at night. Reducing up to 90% of the reflections, the lenses help to maintain visual acuity and make driving at night safer.