Will your poor vision result in dangerous driving this winter?
30th September 2015
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So the days are growing shorter again, and many of us will be facing driving to and from work in the dark.

Not a prospect many people relish. We are not nocturnal creatures, we cannot see in the dark. As dusk falls so does our ability to trust our vision. Not just what we can see but our ability to judge size, speed and distance. And dusk in particular brings with it the ‘trick of the light’ where you’re convinced you see something that turns out not to be there!

Driving at night we are reliant on artificial light sources, and in the case of street lighting, council cuts in recent years mean that there is significantly less illumination of many of our roads (a fact I find borderline criminal but that’s a soapbox I won’t mount right now).

The distance we can see at night is considerably shorter than in daylight hours, coupled with a reduced ability to judge speed. This means hazards can seem to appear out of nowhere. And in addition to this our nocturnal friends the fox, badger, rabbit etc actually DO appear out of nowhere and it is our natural instinct to save them from an untimely end, resulting in potentially dangerous manoeuvres.

It’s little wonder then that although only 15% of vehicle miles are covered between the hours of 7pm and 7am they account for almost a third of road injuries and deaths (Department of Transport study). So what steps can we take to avoid becoming a statistic?

Vehicle maintenance

Make sure ALL your lights are in good working order. Keep spare bulbs in the car and know how to change them. Keep your lights, headlights in particular, clean and undamaged, especially if you’ve been driving in bad weather, although don’t assume that the summer months haven’t left a generous coating of dust in their wake. Keep your windscreens and windows clean inside and out and ensure your de-misters function properly.

Be seen, but don’t dazzle

Don’t leave it until it’s almost dark to switch your headlights on, particularly if you have a dark coloured car. Even if you have excellent vision, you cannot necessarily say the same for other drivers.

On dark roads (and where this used to be restricted to rural roads, thanks to the aforementioned council policies it increasingly applies to A roads) drive on full beam where possible, but dip them the moment you are aware of an oncoming vehicle. Don’t dazzle the driver of any vehicle you may be following, keep your lights dipped.

If you find yourself dazzled by an oncoming vehicle, resist the temptation to retaliate in kind, two wrongs do not make a right and could cause an accident. Don’t look directly at the oncoming vehicle, concentrate on the left hand kerb and keep a steady speed. Constantly slowing down and speeding up again can confuse any drivers following you.

If you find yourself being dazzled by the car behind, flip your rear view mirror to its night time position. If this doesn’t work don’t be drawn into a game of ‘cat and mouse,’ it’s possible that the driver of that Range Rover behind can’t even help that his lights directly hit your rear view mirror. If he doesn’t allow you to pull ahead slightly, then slow down and allow him to pass you.

Stay alert

Pedestrians, particularly late night revellers, can be difficult to spot and can behave erratically. Very few people don their high-vis jacket before leaving the pub. Bicycle lights may be present but are small and often inadequate, you may not spot a cyclist until you are really close to them.

Study the road ahead, looking for glimmers of light that could give you advanced warning of an oncoming vehicle.Don’t drive tired, know your route and take plenty of breaks if on a long journey. Our bodies are naturally programmed to sleep through the hours of darkness and this, coupled with potentially long periods staring intently into the darkness can cause you to become tired much quicker than you would during the daytime. Ensure you have a fully charged mobile phone and ideally a GPS system if in unfamiliar territory.

Get your eyes tested – regularly!

All the advice in the world will not help if you’re eyes are not getting the optical assistance they may need. If you don’t currently wear glasses or contact lenses and are a driver, then keeping tabs on your visual ability could literally be a life saver, as even minor vision deficiencies can be magnified in the dark.If you do currently wear glasses then regular check ups are a must.

At Billson Opticians in Haverhill, there is an expert team of fully qualified dispensing opticians with generations of experience.

Whilst many opticians will simply check your vision, prescribe your lens and sell you fancy designer frames, Billson Opticians take your lifestyle into consideration when advising you on eyewear. Offering a friendly, personal service, Haverhill optometrists, Billson Opticians will listen to all your concerns, whether you are new to glasses or have been wearing them for years. What used to be right for your lifestyle may have changed, as do advances in eyewear and the team at Billson Opticians make sure they are up to date with all things optical.

One question that is often raised is that of tinted ‘night driving glasses’ and these can be purchased on Amazon for as little as £1.99 a pair. Don’t! Whilst the theory is that the yellow or amber coloured tint reduces glare and improves contrast, the fact is that ANY tint will reduce the amount of light transmitted to the eye. How can this improve night vision in any way? You may think your vision is improved because they can reduce glare, but they also make darker areas harder to see.

What you should be considering are lenses with an anti-reflective finish. These can provide comfortable and glare-free vision, particularly at night. The coating minimises internal reflections within the lenses, and increases the transmittance of light through the lens to the eye.

If you do a lot of driving, day or night, you should actually check that the frames do not interfere with your field of vision whilst driving, causing additional blind spots.

So before the dark nights really set in, check out Billson Opticians in Haverhill and let them take care of your eyesight, and safety.

 Click here for more information about Billson Opticians in Haverhill.


About the Author

Amelia C

Member since: 6th November 2012

I am a long-term resident of Haverhill and love sharing information and advice on the best places to visit, businesses to contact and people to speak to!

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