The best glasses for driving – reach your destination safely
Customised lenses won’t only improve poor vision, it will also increase road safety. Here’s what you should know before getting driving glasses.
Every time you get behind the steering wheel, your eyes have to take on several challenges. You have to keep focus in changing light conditions, deal with blinding sunlight or wet, reflective roads, and maintain clear vision in dense fog. On top of that, you have to deal with other road users, concentrate on road signs and information, and navigate your way to your final destination. The right spectacle lenses can make driving safer and easier, especially for those who drive frequently for long times on end. But what makes the best driving glasses?
Poor vision can be a driving safety risk
Although a lot of drivers struggle with poor vision, it’s something that can easily be managed. Good driving lenses will put less strain on your eyes, optimise your vision zone, and improve your driving safety in general. For this reason, it’s essential for every driver to consult an eye care professional and get proper eye examinations on a regular basis. If needed, your eye care professional will recommend a customised driving glasses prescription.
The experts recommend having your eyes tested at least once every two years if you’re an adult, even if you’re not aware of any obvious problems with your vision. If you’re over 65, you should go for an eye examination at least once every one to two years. Regular eye tests will help your eye care professional to diagnose the onset of presbyopia early. Presbyopia is an age-related visual condition in which the crystalline lens of the eye loses its flexibility, making it difficult to focus on nearby objects, among other things. Of course, presbyopia will affect your driving ability, making frequent eye tests essential.
Good driving vision is influenced by a combination of factors
The following visual aspects are important to make safe driving decisions:
- You have to be able to see without glare and reflections during the day, but also clearly and with contrast at night. Your eye care professional can assist you in selecting anti-glare sunglasses or distance glasses for driving.
- Your vision shouldn’t be obstructed. Keep this in mind when you select your spectacle frames and prescription sunglasses frames. Frames that don’t fit properly can slip and move, blocking parts of your field of vision.
- You must be able to focus on close objects. As mentioned above, from age 40 onwards drivers may start to suffer from the onset of presbyopia which gradually causes vision to deteriorate.
The right spectacle lenses and well-fitted spectacle frames will be the solution to every one of these vision requirements. Remember to discuss your visual needs with your eye care professional when you go for an eye test. Give them as much background information as possible and mention whether you drive frequently, or experience any problems when night-driving. This way, they will be able to take everything into consideration and prepare the best possible prescription driving glasses.
How will I know if I need driving lenses or night driving glasses?
If you experience any difficulty when driving, it’s important to get a professional opinion from a registered eye care professional or eye doctor. To determine how well you see contrast and colour, you can do The ZEISS Online Vision Check.
What makes the ideal pair of driving glasses?
Because driving vision is influenced by various factors, your driving lenses must meet a combination of requirements.
You’re exposed to various light sources, day and night, especially when you drive. Bright sunlight, headlights from oncoming traffic, stray light from street lamps and reflections on your spectacles or the windscreen can create dangerous distractions that affect your vision. This is an additional safety risk, even for drivers with perfect vision, as reduced vision in low light conditions and sensitivity to glare are associated with an increased risk of nighttime accidents.1 It’s recommended that drivers who often drive at twilight and night wear anti-glare glasses with an anti-reflective coating. Specialised driving lenses such as DriveSafe Lenses from ZEISS, and glasses for night driving come standard with a special coating that provides reduced reflection and relaxed vision, while anti-glare sunglasses will help reduce distracting glare during the day.
Polarised lenses for driving can offer an additional level of driving safety. Reflected light is routed in a specific direction and causes unpleasant glare. Polarisation filters the light, reducing the dangerous reflections produced by wet roads, snow, or the sun bouncing off metal or glass objects. At the same time, special tinted lenses improve contrast and perception of colours. This allows you to see oncoming vehicles earlier and more clearly, no matter what the visibility. Be aware of the fact that polarising lenses may impair your ability to see certain dashboard displays in your car. Discuss this with your eye care professional before your purchase.
Tinted lenses can help create a more pleasant driving experience, affecting your overall driving ability. However, before you invest in tinted lenses, ask your eye care professional for advice as certain tints are not safe for driving. For example, lenses with a tint higher than 90% are too dark for safe driving; and self-tinting lenses may not darken enough because your windscreen already blocks a large portion of UV light that triggers the lens to darken. In general, brown or grey tints are good driving lenses, because it will help you to identify traffic lights or brake lights in milliseconds and may improve your reaction time.
The air conditioning in your car, cutting headwinds in a convertible, and dust can cause dry, irritated eyes. Wider frames fitted with specialised prescription driving lenses won’t only give you a better field of vision, it can add another layer of protection for your eyes. In addition to protecting your eyes, your lenses should be durable and able to withstand scratches and other damaging environmental influences.
State-of-the-art lens coatings such as DuraVision® Platinum and DuraVision® DriveSafe from ZEISS are a drastic improvement on previous coating solutions. These coatings are much harder, able to repel water and dirt, and effectively protect spectacle lenses against damage.
Measurements conducted by the FKFS2 Institute on behalf of ZEISS shows that drivers look at the road ahead and at oncoming traffic for an average of 97% of their overall driving time, probably a higher average than you would’ve guessed! On top of that your eyes also have other tasks to perform. They need to rapidly shift focus between the side mirrors, the rear-view mirror and the dashboard. This is an easy task for young drivers, but when you reach the age of 35-40 onwards, your eyes are no longer able to adapt (or "accommodate" as the experts say) to different distances as fast as they could when you were younger. You may need special progressive lenses, also known as varifocals for driving to overcome this obstacle.
You are probably familiar with the concept of bifocal lenses, designed for people who have two vision prescriptions. However, bifocal lenses for driving are becoming less popular and are being replaced with progressive lenses, an improvement on bifocal technology. These lenses work on a similar concept, but where bifocals show a clear line dividing the lens in two, varifocals or progressive lenses work with multiple focal points to accommodate your visual habits.
Of course, driving visual habits are quite different to daily visual habits, but progressive lenses can be optimised for driving purposes. When driving with varifocals, the intermediate and distance zones of the lens must be as large as possible to enable you to refocus quickly when your eyes move between the road ahead and the dashboard with minimal head movement.
Specialised progressive lens designs such as ZEISS DriveSafe Lenses meet specific driving visual needs, but the usual rule applies – it has to be fitted by a professional and tailored exactly to the wearer's needs for optimal comfort. DriveSafe progressive lenses are not just suitable for driving but are perfect for day-to-day use. Although there will be a short adaptation period, progressive lenses are like a tailor-made suit; they're so precisely customised that this time frame is kept at an absolute minimum.
Many people have problems seeing when driving at night and at twilight. If you normally drive with your glasses and you tend to experience visual difficulty when it gets darker, it may be because your lenses designed for daily use are not optimised for changing light conditions. The pupil expands and contracts depending on light intensity. At night, your pupils will dilate in response to dim light, and you may need night driving prescription glasses to accommodate this.
To establish your optimal night driving prescription, your eye care professional can recreate a night vision situation with specialised equipment such as the ZEISS i.Profiler. It’s an eye measurement device based on innovative wave-front technology that measures the eyes with wide-open pupils. These measurements can then be taken into consideration when producing customised lenses, using i.Scription® technology. The result is a lens designed for sharper vision, and improved colour and contrast perception when driving at night.
What to look out for when choosing your spectacle frames for driving
Spectacle frames can impact overall visual results, and you have to take care in choosing frames that won’t obstruct your field of vision. The range of frames on offer can be a little overwhelming, and it’s tempting to just go with the most attractive option, but here’s how you can narrow down your choice:
- Identify a few options where you can clearly see that the frame and temples are as slim as possible and join at the top edge. Your eye care professional can guide you here.
- Next, consider the size of the lenses. The larger the lenses, the fewer head movements are needed to check the rear-view and side mirrors, so eliminate the frames that only allow for small or narrow lenses.
- Ask your eye care professional to show you which spectacle frames have curved lenses, as this will help to reduce distracting incident light coming in from the sides.
- Make sure that the frames rest comfortably and securely on your nose to ensure that it remains in place even during rapid head movements. You can move your head from side to side and mimic your driving movements when trying the frames on.
Why you should consider using specialised driving lenses
When you get into your car, you want to reach your destination safely. Using unknown roads, driving in adverse weather, and heavy traffic can already be stressful, and you certainly don’t want to add visual difficulty to this list.
The benefits of ZEISS DriveSafe Lenses include:
- You can wear your driving glasses day and night.
- Easy accommodation and change in distance focus will help you adapt to ever-changing conditions and incidents that occur on the road.
- Accurate vision of the road, dashboard, and side mirrors thanks to the DriveSafe Design.
- The lenses reduce reflections considerably.
- Improved vision when driving at night.
Drive safely, and reach your destination stress free.
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Babizhayev M, A: Glare Disability and Driving Safety. Ophthalmic Res 2003;35:19-25. doi: 10.1159/000068199
Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKFS) http://www.fkfs.de; FKFS Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart is an independent foundation associated with the University of Stuttgart. Founded in 1930, FKFS has became one of the largest and leading research institutes in the fi eld of automotive engineering, serving major automobile manufacturers and suppliers.