Eyesight & Driving: Making Sure Your Eyes Are Road Safe

optometrist carrying out an eye exam on a patient

For many of us, driving is a part of our daily life. And for some of us, it’s even a part of our job. The safety of our driving relies largely on our eyesight and how quickly it allows us to react to hazards in the road. Good eyesight and safe driving come hand in hand. 

Many people must wear glasses or contact lenses when driving if they need them to meet the DVLA’s visual standards for driving in the UK. In fact, the DVLA also requires you to disclose if you have problems with your eyesight that affects both eyes. This does not include short sightedness, long sightedness or colour-blindness. But you must be able to read a car number plate made after 1 September 2001 from 20 metres away (with glasses or contact lenses if you need them). You must also have an adequate field of vision. 

Poor eyesight has the potential to cause life-threatening accidents on the road so it’s vital that you take care of it, especially when driving. Here are a few tips to help you care for your vision and keep you safe behind the wheel. 

Tips for maintaining good vision and driving safely

Make sure your glasses fit correctly

Wearing glasses that slip down your nose or pinch your head too tightly is not only irritating and distracting, but it could also be hindering your vision. If you wear prescription glasses, they will likely have been fitted to your exact measurements so that you can see through the lenses clearly. Wearing ill-fitting glasses could reduce your clarity on the road. If you’re not confident that your glasses fit you properly, visit your local independent opticians so that they can adjust the frames for you. 

Wear sunglasses

UV rays don’t just damage your skin, they can harm your eyes, too. Several eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts have been linked to prolonged exposure to UV rays. 

Wearing sunglasses protects your eyes, keeping them healthy in the long run. They also help you while driving too, by protecting your eyes from overexposure to sunlight which can cause eye strain. Symptoms of eye strain include dry and blurry eyes – one of the last things you want while you’re driving! Read our guide on keeping your eyes safe from the sun for more information on how to protect yourself from UV light.

Avoid glare

Another driving hazard that sunglasses can protect you from is glare. Sunlight that glares and bounces off other cars or buildings can make it difficult to see when you’re driving, and wearing sunglasses will stop you from squinting to see through it. 

When it gets dark, headlights and streetlights can also cause glare. It can become blinding if you have early cataracts or another uncorrected refractive error and can result in halos or distorted vision which can make it difficult to read road signs or discern other vehicles in the road. Wearing glasses with polarised lenses for driving that reduce the intensity of glare can keep you safe and prevent you from being dazzled by bright lights. 

Take breaks 

Driving can be tiring, especially on long journeys. It’s important to take breaks to stop yourself from getting too tired and to give your eyes a rest. Make sure you’re stopping to take regular breaks and if you’re sharing the journey with someone, consider taking turns to drive.

Avoid dry eyes

Dry eyes can feel painful and irritated. This is not only a nuisance when driving but it’s dangerous too. Dry eyes can occur when driving for a few reasons:

  • direct airflow to the face, such as an open window or air conditioning
  • not blinking enough
  • glares and bright, flickering lights

Dry eyes are dangerous when driving because it can impact both your near or far vision and your peripheral vision.

A good way to avoid getting dry eyes while driving is to blink frequently to help increase tear production, closing your eyes for a few moments when you’ve stopped for a break, or even using artificial eye drops if you’re suffering from a particularly severe case of dry eyes. 

Have regular eye exams

Routine eye exams are important for any driver. Even if you feel like you have perfect vision, a comprehensive eye exam will help you determine any refractive errors you might have that your eyes are overcorrecting, like short sightedness or long sightedness

They are also important for diagnosing any underlying health conditions you might be unaware of. Several eye conditions and health conditions can gradually develop over time and the symptoms aren’t always obvious. Such conditions can affect your ability to see road signs and other hazards. Contact us to schedule a 3D OCT eye exam to make sure you’re driving with clear vision.

Tunnel vision and driving

Tunnel vision is a worsening or loss of peripheral vision and it often feels as though you’re looking through a tunnel. 

It is particularly dangerous when driving because having clear peripheral vision is crucial for recognising potential dangers that aren’t directly in front of you, like pedestrians or cyclists on the road. Tunnel vision can occur when you begin to get tired on your drive, or if you have been driving for a long time without any breaks. 

Following the tips we have outlined can help you avoid tunnel vision while driving. But if you find that you experience tunnel vision regularly, you should consult your optician as soon as possible to see if there are any underlying conditions. 

 

Both an eye condition that affects your vision or an accident on the road have the potential to stop you from driving. If driving is a necessary part of your day – whether it’s the school run, a delivery, or a simple commute – you might not be able to afford being off the road, even for a few days. 

Taking care of your eyes and protecting them while driving is one of the best ways to keep yourself and others safe on the road. Scheduling regular eye exams is the number one way to do that, so contact your local independent opticians and make sure you’re road safe.

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