Seeing Well in the Car – at Night, in Fog, Glare or Wet Conditions

What you need to know about the right driver's glasses

16 September 2022

Article first published: August 2022

Driving a car is a real challenge for the eyes. Many accidents happen in darkness, dusk and fog. The National Safety Council in the U.S. states that fatal accidents occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in October through March, and after 8 p.m. in summer and spring.1 These are times when visibility deteriorates – a real safety risk. A survey in Germany showed that almost 80 percent of drivers feel dazzled by the headlights of oncoming vehicles. LED and xenon headlights are a major stress factor here. Adverse lighting conditions or driving at night stress and/or unsettle 71% of drivers.2 The right glasses can help people see better and be more relaxed when driving. Some essential things to know about good vision while driving are summarized below.

Seeing Well in the Car – at Night, in Fog, Glare or Wet Conditions

Special visual requirements for driving

Driving poses some special challenges for vision:

  • Blurred vision: Eyeglasses are an absolute essential then driving for anyone with reduced vision. In Germany, eye tests are only mandatory when obtaining a driver's license. But even later – for the sake of road safety – it is advisable to have your eyes tested at least every two years.
  • Frequent changes of focus between different distances: The driver's eyes consistently switch back and forth between the dashboard, navigation system, mirrors and the road. This is a real problem, especially for people with (even incipient) presbyopia. That means individuals who wear glasses need a solution that is optimized for the different viewing distances – while allowing the widest possible field of vision.
  • Darkness, rain and fog: Visibility is limited and oncoming cars and their headlights are sometimes very dazzling.
  • Wetness and snow: Can become a problem at night, but also during the day. Sunlight is reflected so intensely on a wet road surface that the road is barely recognizable, and the glare prevents potential hazards from being recognized. This happens especially in fall and winter when the sun is low over the horizon.
  • Glare from the sun: In strong sunlight, the protection provided by the sun visor is sometimes inadequate.
Seeing Well in the Car – at Night, in Fog, Glare or Wet Conditions

Darkness, rain and fog can impact our vision when driving.

Are there special prescription glasses for driving?

The most important factor is an up-to-date, optimal correction of visual defects – whether that person suffers from short-sightedness, far-sightedness or presbyopia. Regular eye tests and always an up-to-date correction are indispensable, especially for drivers, as for all road users.

Special prescription glasses for drivers are also available. ZEISS DriveSafe was launched back in 2015 and is optimized for the visual requirements of driving. Particularly important for people who wear glasses: ZEISS DriveSafe lenses are for everyday use and can be worn in all other daily situations – available as single-vision or progressive lenses.

ZEISS DriveSafe lenses are particularly interesting for anyone wearing progressive lenses. Conventional progressive lenses are not exactly designed for the driver's need to perpetually scan the dashboard, rearview mirror, side mirror and the road. The transition areas in ZEISS DriveSafe progressive lenses are optimized for comfortable guidance for the eyes while driving. This supports dynamic vision in situations that require fast reactions.

Driving at night: Glasses can help

Drivers know the problem: At night, in fog or at dusk, maybe even in the rain, they see less and can no longer easily estimate distances. In addition, the headlights of oncoming cars can be very dazzling. This leads to stress and uncertainty. ZEISS DriveSafe lenses support the eyes in precisely this situation. They become night driving glasses and – thanks to a special coating – help to reduce discomfort glare as a matter of subjective perception. This contributes to road safety. The integrated ZEISS Luminance Design technology takes into account pupil size in low light conditions with the aim of further improving the optical quality of the lenses.

Seeing Well in the Car – at Night, in Fog, Glare or Wet Conditions

Special eyeglass lenses can support you when driving at night.

Sunglasses for driving

The sun often dazzles drivers and can then definitely pose a safety risk. Sunglasses are the first choice here – whether with (then preferably ZEISS DriveSafe) or without prescription. But there are a few points to bear in mind when driving. Sunglasses are available in tint categories 0 to 4 – with the last level unsuitable for participation in road traffic. Of course, this also applies on a motorcycle or bicycle. Anyone who has an accident while wearing such glasses may be at a disadvantage in court – because their perception is severely limited.

Seeing Well in the Car – at Night, in Fog, Glare or Wet Conditions

Sunglass lens categories and percentage of absorbed light. The graphic shows: lenses with category 4 absorb up to 97% of the light and are not suitable for car driving.

It should also be kept in mind that the color of the sunglasses is relevant in road traffic. An eye care professional can tell whether the preferred color is suitable for traffic. For instance, if certain blue lenses are worn, it might not be possible to see traffic lights properly. This can also represent a safety hazard. The traffic signal colors red, yellow, blue and green must be recognizable with sunglasses.

Wet road and sun: Increased glare reduced thanks to polarizing lenses

This scenario is also familiar to many: After rain, the sun shines brightly – possibly low on the horizon – and the roadway turns into a glistening plain on which little can be seen. This glare and reflection limit perception. In this case, polarizing sunglasses with ZEISS SkyPol lenses can provide relief – ideally combined with ZEISS DriveSafe. Thanks to a special molecular structure, they absorb the light rays reflected from the road. This typically makes it easier and faster to recognize obstacles and hazards, as well as colors.
This effect is further enhanced by combining it with contrast-enhancing colors in the brown and orange range. Incidentally, this helps not only in ordinary road traffic, but also on waterways and snow-covered surfaces – wherever there are strong reflections.

Are self-tinting lenses suitable in the car?

Self-tinting lenses are a fantastic alternative for people who have to wear prescription glasses – and they have high performance today. They tint when they come into contact with UV radiation. In the car, these lenses do not work optimally because part of the UV radiation is already filtered through the windshield. In addition, the driver usually sits with his or her head in the shade. Therefore: In case of strong glare, it is better to rely directly on sunglasses.

Conclusion: Glasses bring real benefits when driving

ZEISS DriveSafe lenses support good vision while driving, whether as clear glasses, self-tinting or as sunglasses – the latter preferably polarized. The glasses can make driving safer and more relaxed in wet, rainy, glare, night, and foggy conditions. And another note on storage: both everyday glasses and sunglasses should definitely not be left in a hot car – because the very high temperatures can damage the high-quality anti-reflective coatings if left for a long time. A good spectacle case also protects against scratches – no matter where.

In every case, the eye care professional can advise which model, colors and tint levels are suitable and allowed on the street.

Portrait Maria Conrad
Press Contact Maria Conrad International PR: Eyeglass Lenses, Coatings and Materials

ZEISS Vision Care

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    ZEISS study, September 2015, with market research company YouGov among 1,617 drivers in Germany