Focus on safe nighttime driving
Optometrist offers tips to help you keep an eye on safety
(Car Culture photo/Getty Images / November 22, 2011)
Lovelorn call-in shows aside, driving in the dark poses very real dangers to your physical well-being, particularly if your daytime vision is less than 20/20. We checked in with optometrist Cristina Schnider, senior director of medical affairs with Johnson and Johnson vision care, for some tips on minimizing the risk.
"At night your eyes are set up for light gathering and movement detection, as opposed to looking for fine details and colors during the day," says Schnider. "The pupils get larger and, like a camera set on a large aperture, you don't have a very good depth of field."
To compound matters, we tend to concentrate harder while driving at night, which makes us blink less, Schnider says. "Your eyes are more likely to get tired and dry, especially in a car with air conditioning or heating blowing in your face."
She offers the following advice:
Start with a good baseline. "Make sure your daytime distance correction is well adjusted for your eyes."
Be mindful of astigmatism. "Astigmatism actually creates two different sets of focus. Some people describe is as halos around lights and it can be very distracting." Schnider says roughly 50 percent of people are driving without properly corrected astigmatism.
Combat dry eyes. "Ask your doctor about contact lenses that maintain moisture and a good, wet surface on the lens for longer periods of time."
Cut down on glare. "For glasses, the most important technology is anti-reflection coating. All the lights create little points of reflection and the coating eliminates that and makes it much easier to drive."
Check your progressive lenses. "Progressive lenses are very often optimized for near vision," says Schnider. "You may actually find a different design of progressives makes it easier at night, if they're balanced more toward distance for a wider, clearer zone."
Slow down. "Reactions are much slower at night and we don't see things as quickly because of the way our eyes process images."
Adjust other lights. "A lot of navigation systems that are dash-mounted have a night setting that turns it to black with light contrasts, rather than white with dark contrasts. The fewer lights inside the car the better because your eyes have trouble deciding which lights to adjust for."
Minimize multi-tasking, "Talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, is actually worse that drinking while you're driving at night."
Clean your windshield. "Your eyes will find something to look at and a dirty windshield makes it harder for your eyes to push out and focus where they need to focus."