What are the best glasses for driving, especially at night?

Getting the best value for your money when it comes to eyeglasses, sunglasses, eye exams, and contact lenses.

Postby Driver » Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:38 pm

I do a lot of driving. I notice a lot of strain on my eyes after a long drive and I wonder if there are any glasses that can make this better? I don't know if it is the brightness from the sun during the day, the glare off the other cars, or just trying to focus my attention.

With the shorter days now, I'm often doing more of my driving in the dark. Sometimes it is harder to see with glares coming off of headlights. I've heard of night driving glasses, but I'm wondering if they are worth getting?
Driver
 

Postby george » Thu Dec 13, 2012 12:57 am

There are really two different questions here as there are very different needs for daytime driving compared to night time driving. I'll post a reply now regarding glasses for night driving, and will put together an answer about daytime driving glasses when I get a chance.

First, regarding driving at night. My suggestion is do NOT buy specially tinted glasses for your night driving. There are some companies that are promoting these so called "night driving glasses" that are typically lightly tinted amber / yellow colored tinted lenses with an anti-reflective coating. Many people believe that they can see better with these tinted lenses because the contrast is improved. The problem is that you actually reduce visual acuity in dark situations when you add a tint to the lenses. There is a very well written article on the Laramy-K Optical site that covers the problems of night driving glasses very well. They have an excellent quote from the book "Forensic Aspects of Vision and Highway Safety” which states:

“Yellow ‘Night Driving’ lenses have been shown to provide no benefit in seeing ability at night. They are even hazardous, because they give the driver a feeling of seeing better, which no one has yet been able to explain. Studies have shown that they actually impair visual performance and retard glare recovery. Many promoters have made unfounded claims for the ability of amber to improve night vision. They have employed mass solicitation, usually by mail. The Federal Trade Commission has correctly ruled that such practices are illegal since the lenses do not perform as claimed.”


The visitor comments from that page are especially interesting. There are multiple people who posted their subjective benefits of yellow or amber tinted lenses at night. It is remarkable how passionate people are about this topic. One comment tries to discredit the above quote, saying the guy who made the statement was old, as were the studies the conclusions were based upon. I tried to find more recent studies without any success. I'm guessing the original studies were well done and that no one has been able to disprove them. If someone could show a superior eyeglass for night time, they could make a lot of money. People are already making a lot of money off of these night glasses, and that is what led to one person paying a large settlement to the Federal Trade Commission ($125,000) because he made what seem to be unproven claims.

There are several interesting discussion on Optiboard among eye care professionals. In this thread on polarized glasses for night driving - one optometrist mentioned the Drivewear polarized darkening lenses seemed to work well at night. Dave Rips - President & CEO Younger Optics (maker of Drivewear) posted in that thread clearly saying the lenses are not for night use, and he believes that any tint, even light yellow, is bad for night driving, as is any polarized lens. I would think that if there were any studies to support the use of tints or polarized lenses for night driving, he would be the one to know.

The other threads there seem to all say mostly the same things - you want a clear lens with an anti-reflective coating. In some of the newer threads there is mention of i.scription lenses. I haven't looked into this yet and so don't fully understand, but there is some suggestion that these specific types of lenses may have less problems with night vision. Again - the issue seems to be minimizing the problems of wearing glasses at night as opposed to something that actually improves your vision.

The one suggestion for dealing with bright headlights is to look at the white line on the side of the road so that you aren't looking directly towards the headlights.

The issue with driving at night is that you need as much light to get to your eye as possible in order to react. With any tint, even a light tint, you are reducing the amount of information that gets to your eye. The interesting thing is that these night glasses do make it seem like your vision is better, when it actually isn't. There actually has been one company fined by the Federal Trade Commission for claiming benefits from these types of night vision glasses, when there isn't any.

So - what other suggestions are mentioned from reliable sources that you can do to improve your night vision while driving? First thing - clean your windshield (and other windows)! This seems obvious, but I'm guessing most people haven't had the INSIDE of their windshield cleaned in a long time. You get a ton of distracting reflections off of the smudges on the inside if your windows, as well as the outside. As for glasses that can improve your night vision - actually - the goal of night glasses is to do the least harm. If you don't need glasses for driving, then you are best off to not wear glasses when driving at night. Glasses just add artifacts to natural light. If you have to wear glasses when driving, it is best to get a clear lens with an anti-reflective coating. The anti-reflective coating will reduce glare coming off of the lenses and also increase the amount of light that can get to the eye (relative to a normal lens without the anti-reflective coating).

Unfortunately, there are no magic eyeglasses that improve your night vision.

I'll hopefully have some time to get to suggestions on why certain glasses make better driving glasses during the daytime.
george
 
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Postby george » Sun Dec 30, 2012 10:23 am

As for the best eyeglasses for driving, there are a few different options.

First, getting polarized lenses. Most, but not all, eye care professionals believe polarized lenses help reduce eye strain when driving during daylight hours (not meant to be worn at night). Polarized lenses will filter certain light to reduce glare seen on surfaces of some objects. To try to make a simple analogy, light waves bounce off surfaces in different directions and a polarized lens will filter out all but the vertical waves of light. This means that light bouncing off of water creating the reflections you see will be removed, allowing you to see into the water better. Because of this, fishers often wear polarized glasses to better see below the surface of the water. There are a small number of people who report headaches from wearing polarized lenses, but it isn't that common - so it isn't a good option for everyone. Also, some sunglasses have low quality polarized filters added - where it is just a cheap coating placed onto the glasses. Over time, these filters can peel off. Better polarized lenses use a better adherence process. Just because glasses are cheap or expensive won't necessarily help you know which method was used to create the filter, though. Polarized lenses do filter out some of the available light, so you shouldn't wear them at night. Also, some (typically older) LCD panels have a horizontal polarized screen on them. Since polarized glasses have a vertical polarized screen, this means you can't see anything on the LCD screen if you are wearing polarized glasses. This can occur with LCD screens on older navigation units, some car displays, and some cell phones. Most are now built where you can still use polarized glasses, but just be aware that the display may not show up. If you have a newer display, you may also not be able to see the display if you turn your head sideways when wearing polarized lenses. Most people don't find this to be a problem, but some do. This is the reason that professions where seeing LCD screens is critical should not wear polarized lenses, such as airline pilots. The only other concern I might have with polarized lenses would be that they made make ice more difficult to see on the ground, since you would not see the reflection created by ice. This is also a reason some people don't recommend polarized lenses for people skiing - they won't be able to see patches of ice as easily.

Second, certain tints can increase the perception of contrast but more importantly can help shield from bright sunlight. Not all eye specialists agree on tints improving contrast, but most people do find that subjectively certain tints help them see. It is important that you don't get tints that can alter or block traffic signal colors. Different people will prefer different tint shades, so this is pretty subjective as to the color to get.

Third, there are special polarized, tinted lenses marketed for driving that will change color based on the amount of light. These lenses are called "Drivewear". These are on of the very few glasses that will change colors when inside the car as the tint will change based on available light, not just UV light like almost all other photochromic lenses. Drivewear are polarized, so they filter out some of the annoying reflections. When inside the car in overcast / foggy conditions, the glasses will be a greenish/yellow color designed to allow as much light as possible to the eye. When inside the car on bright days, the color will shift towards a copper color that most people prefer under bright driving conditions. When you go outside into bright light, the lenses get darker to filter out more light. The majority of people who have them like them for driving, but do comment that they aren't the most attractive looking lenses when around others. However, they are light enough where you don't have to take them off if you go inside somewhere, but you aren't going to want to wear them indoors for everyday use.

Fourth, you should get an anti-reflective coating which will reduce the reflections created by the glasses themselves (different from the glare which polarized lenses will reduce).

Also, you would want to get frames that will have large enough lenses to block the light from a variety of directions.

In summary, my own preference for driving is to get polarized lenses (to filter out reflections and glares outside of the car) combined with an amber tint to reduce incoming bright light and also accentuate contrast, and then add an anti-reflective coating. If you don't need prescription glasses, you have a huge selection. If you need prescription glasses, you can either use your standard prescription glasses and add a clip-on polarized filter, or you can get prescription sunglasses. Drivewear is a premium choice that is nice, but may not be worth the extra cost for many people.
george
 
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Postby MissBehavin » Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:55 am

I have had a pair of Nighthawk night driving glasses for about thirty years. They are the best. They were quite expensive at that time but well worth the price, Made in Germany. I drove long haul transport for quite a few years and found these glasses to be a necessity. Even work in fog.


Last bumped by Anonymous on Fri Jun 20, 2014 11:55 am.
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