Your life and eyes 4 min read

Reasons you can’t see while you drive at night

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Driving at night can be riskier than driving during the day, due to increased road hazards and eye conditions that can affect your ability to see in darker settings. These factors impact drivers all around the world. Have you ever wondered, "Why can't I see as well when I drive at night ?" or "Should I wear special glasses to drive at night?" While the answers may vary depending on individual cases, this guide will help you understand some particular reasons you have trouble seeing you drive at night, and what to do to fix the problem.

Vision-related risks of night driving

Having trouble seeing at night is common everywhere in the world. Out of 34 million drivers in the United Kingdom, 17 million struggle to see at night, and the accident fatality rate is reportedly three times greater at night than during the day.

One study found that more than 60% of vehicle accidents happen at night time in India, due to factors such as driver's visual fatigue and performance, as well as poor visibility in general.

In South Korea, the fatality rate of accidents that take place at night is 53.38%. The statistics are affected by the reduced quality of visibility that drivers experience during darker hours of the day.

Glare from headlights

Glare from oncoming headlights

One of the most prominent reasons drivers have trouble seeing at night is light from oncoming traffic.

Headlights, high beams and fog lights are designed to help drivers see at night, but they can also produce adverse effects. Glare can be distracting, irritating and reduce your reaction time. So what can you do about it?

If you wear glasses, one of the best ways to improve your night vision is to choose a lens solution with an anti-glare or anti-reflective (AR) coating. This unique lens enhancement can reduce glare given off by oncoming headlights, street sign reflections and other bothersome light. AR-coated lenses can improve your visual comfort and clarity, enhancing your vision for a safer night-driving experience.

Difficulty seeing your dashboard (presbyopia)

Having trouble seeing the dashboard, centre console, GPS, and other small features in your car could be a sign of presbyopia if you're over 40. An estimated 1.8 billion people around the world have presbyopia, and many of these cases are untreated.

The inability to see objects up close can be a risk to your night driving, as it can prevent you from monitoring a safe speed on your odometer, navigating directions on your GPS, or even ensuring that your lights are working correctly. Glasses may be all you need to rectify this problem.

Presbyopia affects vision with age and makes it difficult for you to focus on close objects. If you are experiencing blurriness, or if it has been a while since your last eye exam, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your optician.

Blurry road signs and distant objects (myopia)

Blurred distance vision on the road

Shortsightedness, or myopia, is another significant risk for driving at night if left uncorrected. Myopia makes it difficult to see objects that are far away, such as road signs, debris, cyclists and pedestrians. 

Road hazards are even harder to spot at night when visibility is reduced, and light is limited. More light reflects off of road signs — making them even more challenging to read, other road users are harder to see — including vehicles and pedestrians — and animals are more likely to run out into the road when it's dark out. The inability to see such objects is dangerous for you and everyone else on the road.

It is estimated that myopia affects 1.89 billion people globally. If you've noticed a change in your ability to see distant objects as you drive (during the day or night), you may need to update your vision prescription. A quick eye test with your optician will be able to determine this.

Night blindness (nyctalopia)

Night blindness, or nyctalopia, refers to poor vision that occurs in dim light or darkness. Like presbyopia and myopia, night blindness can pose a dangerous threat to driving at night because it limits the visual capabilities of an affected driver.

This disorder can be caused by cataracts, glaucoma, myopia and other vision conditions. In some cases, glasses can treat night blindness, but treatment ultimately depends on the underlying cause. 

Driving in darker conditions can be challenging to begin with, and night blindness can make it truly dangerous. If you're experiencing symptoms of nyctalopia (halos or glares around lights, trouble seeing distant objects, blurry vision, light sensitivity, etc.), consult your optician.

Safety tips for driving at night

Vehicle and personal safety measures should be taken every time you get behind the wheel — but especially when you drive at night. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 23% of all injury crashes and 37% of all fatal crashes in the United States in 2016 occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) created the Golden Rules for Road Safety as guidelines for drivers to keep themselves and other road users safer in transit. To start: Check your vision regularly, protect your eyes from glare and always wear your glasses on the road. The FIA also advises that motorists:

  • Always pay attention
  • Obey the speed limit
  • Buckle up
  • Use a child safety seat
  • Check their tyres
  • Don't text and drive 
  • Stay bright in reflective gear
  • Wear a helmet
  • Stop when they're tired
  • Watch out for pedestrians, especially kids
  • Slow down for kids
  • Never drink and drive

Improve your vision at night for driving

How can you improve your vision at night? In addition to the tips above, your vision must be as clear as possible.

Many vision problems that weaken your eyesight while you drive at night can be treated with corrective glasses or contacts. Your vision changes as you age, so regular eye exams are essential. You may need to update your prescription to drive more safely and efficiently at night. 

If you suspect you have an eyesight issue directly affecting your ability to drive at night, consult your optician as soon as you can.

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