Does the glare of headlights make you anxious about driving at night? Dr. Kevin Houston, a vision rehabilitation specialist at Mass. Eye and Ear, offers tips for staying safe in the dark.
It’s that time of year again. As summer comes to a close, the sun sets earlier and the days become shorter. The decrease in sunlight can also make night driving more difficult — especially if you’re older than 50.
As we age, our vision tends to gradually become worse, which can be more of a problem at night. It often takes longer for the eyes to adjust from bright light to dim light.
Common signs that you may have trouble driving at night include:
- Difficulty with oncoming headlights
- Difficulty seeing lane markings
- Needing to drive slowly
- Difficulty seeing street signs
- Difficulty judging distance and speed
Here are some things you can do to make it easier to navigate at night.
Clean Your Windows and Mirrors
A dirty windshield may not be noticeable during the day, but it can cause glare at night.
Dirt and grime can also build up on your headlights, says Kevin Houston, OD, MSc, an optometrist in the Vision Rehabilitation Service at Mass. Eye and Ear. Check them regularly to make sure they are clean. See your mechanic to upgrade bulbs and polish covers.
Dim Your Dashboard
Bright lights from the dashboard and instrument panel of the car can distract you from the road. And if you’re using GPS navigation, turn on the night mode.
Use the Night Setting on Your Rearview Mirror
Most rearview mirrors have settings to reduce the brightness and glare of headlights behind you. Check your manual for instructions.
Don’t Look at Oncoming Headlights
When oncoming traffic approaches, it’s best to keep your gaze at the right-lane marking or look straight ahead, trying not look directly at the headlights.
“Staring at bright lights can temporarily affect your visibility at night,” Dr. Houston said. “And, as we age, it often becomes increasingly difficult to adjust from bright light to dim light.”
Decrease Your Speed
If you have trouble seeing, reduce your speed and increase your following distance behind the car in front of you.
Skip the Yellow-Tinted Glasses
Glasses that have a tinted yellow hue are often marketed as specialized night-vision glasses that can improve contrast and reduce glare. But beware — there is a lack of evidence that they improve nighttime visibility. In fact, since they reduce the amount of light that enters the eye, they may make it harder to see, not easier.
Instead, Dr. Houston recommends wearing eyeglasses with an anti-reflective coating. This helps to prevent light from bouncing around inside your lenses.
Schedule an Annual Eye Exam
Dr. Houston also stresses the importance of having an annual eye exam. “It’s important that your prescription is up to date. But it’s also critical to screen for potential eye conditions — like cataracts or glaucoma — that could contribute to poor night vision,” he said.
About our Expert