We all know that driving at dusk or night can be stressful. The glare of the incoming traffic, poorly marked lanes, and disappearing sunlight can make it hard to see, which can endanger you and the others on the road. More than a third of people struggle with nighttime driving, whether they wear glasses or not.
Reduced visibility, drunk driving, and driving while drowsy are some of the main reasons that half of traffic fatalities happen during the night.
Modern vehicles are now equipped with high-powered LED headlights which emit high amounts of blue light. This can make night driving extremely challenging and unsafe. High intensity light from oncoming traffic can be painful and damaging to our sensitive eyes. In addition, many street lights have been replaced with the bright LED version, which increases the problems connected with night time driving.
What is Night Blindness?
Night blindness, i.e. nyctalopia, doesn’t mean that you cannot see anything at night--only that your vision is impaired when there is not enough light. It makes it hard for the eyes to transition from bright light to darkness, which makes driving at night in incoming traffic extremely challenging.
We all struggle with nighttime driving, but people over 40 are experiencing blurry vision and eye fatigue more than their younger counterparts. Night blindness may be hereditary or a side effect of some other underlying problem:
- Retinitis Pigmentosa
- Vitamin A Deficiency
- Eye Surgery
- Uncorrected Vision Problems
- Damaged Eye
If you are troubled by the impaired vision at night, see your doctor to get to the bottom of the problem. Many underlying health conditions can be corrected, which could reduce and even eliminate night blindness.
What Is Blue Light and How Does It Affect Us?
Blue light rays are a part of the visible light spectrum with the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, which is why they are called “high energy visible light”, HEV.) They reach our eyes unfiltered, penetrating all the way to the retina (the inner lining of the back of the eye.)
Blue light plays a big role in regulating our circadian rhythm as it boosts our mood and productivity, making us more alert and energized during the day when we need to be focused on work. It also blocks the production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy at night.
Even though we receive the greatest amount of blue light from the sun, every source of artificial light emits blue light rays, including LED lights, fluorescent lights, TVs, and digital devices. We spend on average seven to ten hours a day staring at a computer or flicking through our social media feed on our smartphones, which makes us exposed to blue light much more than our eyes are designed for.
There are several serious adverse health effects that have been linked to blue light over-exposure:
- Digital eye strain is a serious medical issue which is linked to extended use of digital devices, and can result in blurry vision, dry and irritated eyes, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and neck and back pain.
- Macular degeneration can be a result of prolonged exposure to blue light, which can damage light-sensitive cells. Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness.
- Type 2 diabetes and obesity may be triggered by nighttime working as continuous exposure to blue light has a detrimental effect on our system’s metabolic processes and prevents the ability to process sugar according to a study done at Harvard.
What Are Blue Light Blocking Glasses?
Blue light blocking glasses are specially designed lenses that filter or block the high-energy blue light from LED lights, fluorescent bulbs, and digital devices. In recent times, research has shown there are many health benefits of wearing blue light filtered glasses while sitting in front of the computer at work or scrolling through Facebook at night, but the inquiring minds want to know if they are also good for night driving.
How Can Blue Light Blocking Glasses Help with Night Driving?
Even though there is no blue light at night, wearing blue light blocking lenses can help you see more clearly and feel confident about driving at night. However, not all blue light blocking glasses are equally suited for diminished lighting. The orange or red-tinted lenses will reduce the amount of blue light from the oncoming traffic, but they will also lower the total amount of light entering the eye, which could be unsafe and dangerous.
Another concern with wearing orange or red-tinted blue light blocking glasses while driving at night is that they remove almost all blue light which signals the production of sleep hormone melatonin, and getting drowsy behind the wheel is the last thing we want.
On the other hand, wearing a pair of clear blue light blocking glasses, whether you need a prescription or have 20/20 vision, can reduce the adverse effects of bright lights at night without making it more difficult to see.
How Blue Light Glasses Benefit Night Driving
Blue light blocking glasses reduce light glare from the oncoming traffic by scattering the blue light coming from headlights and street lamps (blue light rays have the shortest wavelength and the highest amount of energy, so they are most likely to cause the glare.)
The anti-reflective coating on the lenses decreases the reflection of water on the road when it’s raining.
They also allow certain amount of blue light to enter the eye, which stops the secretion of melatonin and keeps us alert and vigilant.
Blue light blocking glasses reduce stress on the eyes which can make them irritated, itchy, or watery. Distracted by the glare of the oncoming traffic, many drivers tend to squint or lean closer to the wheel to see better, which causes stress to the eyes.
They reduce headaches and fatigue in people prone to photophobia (an intolerance to light that might lead to vertigo or dizziness.)
What Can You Do to Improve Your Ability to See Clearly When Driving at Night?
While blue light blocking glasses can help reduce the adverse effects of harsh lights, they are not enough to ensure your safety while driving at night.
Here are some tips to make sure you will be able to see clearly in diminished light:
- If you wear prescription glasses, get regular checkups to keep your eyeglasses up-to-date.
- Make sure your glasses lenses are clean.
- Keep your car headlights clean and working properly.
- Be sure your car's windshield is clean on both sides.
- Rest your eyes when needed.
- Keep dashboard lights dim to reduce eye strain.
- Avoid staring at oncoming headlights while driving to reduce stress to the eyes
- Take short breaks when driving long distances.
If you have trouble driving at night, there might be an eye-related health issue that needs to be addressed. Talk to your eye doctor about any changes to your vision or problems with night driving.
When you get on the road at night, make sure you are rested and alert, and don a pair of blue light blocking glasses for some peace of mind.