Eye Health Central

Night Driving with Contact Lenses

What Are The Best Contact Lenses For Night Driving?

Why Is Driving At Night So Difficult? A lot of people have trouble seeing when driving at night, even those who normally have excellent vision during the daytime. There are many visual obstacles to contend with, and any one of them can make it very hard to see the road ahead of you, other cars and hazards.

There are various light conditions, from dark country roads to bright city streets, there is glare reflected from road signs and wet road surfaces, add in the light constantly changing from the headlights of oncoming traffic with the possibility of being temporarily blinded but some not dipping their headlights and you can see it's a lot for the eyes to deal with.

best contact lenses for night driving

Pupil adjustment

One of the bigger problems with night time driving is having to adjust from darkness to bright lights, and then back again. Human eyes adjust to let in more or less light, depending on the light's intensity. In dark environments, the pupil opens up wide to allow in as much light as possible. In bright environments, it tightens up into a tiny opening, protecting the retina. When the headlights from oncoming traffic hit your eye, your pupils close up quickly. But after the car passes, it may take some time for them to open up again, leaving you with poor night vision until they readjust.

To avoid this, try to avoid looking directly at any light source ahead of you in order to preserve your night vision. The best place to look when traffic approaches is down toward the side of the road, using your peripheral vision to track any cars near you.

Bear in mind that your eye's ability to adjust to dim or bright environments slows with age. As you get older, the time needed to see clearly in the dark will increase, and the minimum amount of light needed to see clearly will rise. There's not much that can be done to increase low light vision, but being aware of your limitations is important. It's dangerous to be behind the wheel in the dark if you're not able to see clearly.

According to the Royal Society of for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) road casualty statistics show that 40% of collisions occur in the hours of darkness there are various reasons for this, from tiredness, poor visibility and slow pupil reactions Between the ages of 15 and 65, the time it takes for your pupil to recover from glare increases from 1 to 9 seconds.

For people who wear corrective lenses, further complications in the form of glare and blurred vision can also be a problem. 

What Are The Best Contact Lenses For Driving At Night?

There are no contact lenses designed specifically with night driving in mind. The best option would be to use contact lenses that provide the clearest, sharpest vision possible.

according to the UK Government "You must be able to read (with glasses or contact lenses, if necessary) a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres." This is more stringent for lorry or bus drivers.

Although there is no specific contact lens designed for driving at night there are contact lenses that may help

Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses 

There are no contact lenses designed specifically with night driving in mind. The best option would be to use contact lenses that provide the clearest, sharpest vision possible. Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses can sometimes beat soft contact lenses in that regard, but some people find them to be less comfortable, and harder to get used to.

However some people also complain of 'glare' when looking at lights when driving at night wearing RGP lenses. This is because these lenses are smaller than soft lenses, and so, when your pupil expands at night, the fitting portion of the lens can then interfere with your vision, causing glare or flare. In addition RGP lenses can grease up, which will be similar to looking through a dirty windscreen.

Contact Lenses And Night Driving

Monovision or Multifocal Contact Lenses

why is driving at night so difficult

If you wear monovision or multifocal contact lenses you may find that your distance vision, especially at dusk is compromised. You may need to consider wearing glasses for driving at night, or swapping to a pair of distance only contact lenses, to give you the best vision.

Coloured Contact Lenses

People who wear coloured contact lenses can find that their vision is compromised at night. At night our pupils dilate to allow in more ambient light, as a coloured contact lens has a fixed pupil aperture the eye is effectively seeing through part of the coloured lens which can cause blurred vision. 

Dry Eyes

If you wear contact lenses the air from the car's air conditioning can cause dry eyes. This can cause irritation, deposits on the lens surface and discomfort. To prevent contact lenses from drying out whilst driving, direct the vents in the car away from your face and it may help to have some re wetting drops on standby.

Night Driving Glasses

Some people find that wearing glasses with a slight amber or yellow tint can be helpful with reducing glare at night, but they won't eliminate the problem entirely, and there have been studies that report that whilst yellow lenses reduce the amount of light coming into the eye which reduces visibility they can also be detrimental rather than helpful.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says night driving glasses may hurt not help, and a recent study reported in the National Library of Medicine concluded that "Yellow-lens night-driving glasses did not appear to improve pedestrian detection at night or reduce the negative effects of headlight glare on pedestrian detection performance".

How Can I Improve My Night Vision Whilst Driving?

The good news is there are ways to improve your night time vision while driving, 

Get your eyes tested

The best way to improve your night vision whilst driving is to get your eyes tested. Anyone who wears glasses or contacts should make sure that their prescription is up to date. After a few years, your eyes can change, and the power required to correct your vision may need to be adjusted. Driving with corrective lenses that aren't the right power is unsafe.

If you think you might have, or, have been told you have a cataract, and it is affecting your night driving vision then this is a good time to discuss cataract surgery with your Optometrist, he or she can refer you to an Ophthalmologist. 

As we age our lenses start to become frosted, like bathroom glass, and begin to limit our vision, at night when our pupils enlarge to let in more light they expose more of the cataract causing more glare from oncoming headlights and street lighting.

It's not all about the eyes, according to the RAC to improve visibility and reduce your risks of accidents whilst driving at night you should -

  • Don’t stare at oncoming vehicles
  • Keep windows clean
  • Watch out for children, cyclists and animals
  • Get your eyes tested
  • Don’t get behind the wheel when tired
  • Hone your night-driving skills

Any issues with your night time driving vision first step is to see an Optometrist, you may be eligible for a free eyesight exam, and be cautious before investing big money in tinted night vision glasses, there is little evidence to prove they are helpful. 

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 8 Sep 2016, Last modified: 20 May 2024