How to improve your vision when driving in the dark

Research reveals that half of UK motorists struggle to see when driving in the dark. We explain some ways to improve your night-time vision.

Driving in the dark

The clocks go back an hour at 2am on Sunday 25 October. For millions of motorists, this is likely to mean a return to driving home from work in the dark.

New research reveals that half of UK drivers admit to not being able to see clearly behind the wheel at night. Problems include things that look blurred, night-time glare from artificial lighting and being dazzled by oncoming vehicles.

Government data shows that around 300 collisions every year are caused by glare from headlights.

For this reason, learner drivers are likely to be taught how to drive in the dark, under plans announced by transport minister Baroness Vere. She told MPs that ministers were considering a ‘logbook’ system where learner drivers would also have to show they had driven in rain and on rural roads.

Baroness Vere said: “What will happen is that there will be various modules. So one driving in adverse conditions, one driving after dark, one at high speed [and] one of distracted driving.

“It should be a very organised and well-evidenced way of going through the entire undertaking of learning to drive, and it must focus on the areas that people find most difficult.”

‘Unnecessary clock change’

driving at night

There are calls to end the seasonal clock change. Research by the RAC Foundation shows a 19 percent increase in road traffic collisions in the fortnight after the clocks go back. They reduce by 11 percent when the clocks go forward.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has campaigned against what it calls ‘the unnecessary clock change’ for many years. It says that more than half of people want to scrap the change.

Dr Andy Hepworth of optical lens company Essilor, said: “With such short days in the winter – and driving conditions frequently made worse by the British weather – often people have no choice but to drive in the dark or wet weather, which can play havoc on vision. 

“Glare caused by natural or artificial light is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges – especially for spectacle wearers. Removing distractions caused by glare from streetlights, traffic lights and headlights from other cars could help to keep drivers safer on UK roads.

“Ensuring your eyesight is up to scratch is also crucial. Most people over the age of about 45 will need some vision correction to see in sharp focus, and everyone should have their eyes checked by an optician at least every two years as your sight can change without it being obvious.”

How to drive in the dark

night driving

Dr Hepworth has the following advice for driving in the dark

  • Adjust your eyes to the dark before driving. Low light levels cause the pupil of the eye to become larger and this can accentuate any focusing errors. It’s important to wear glasses or contact lenses with an up-to-date prescription.
  • Keep your distance. It’s more difficult to judge distance in the dark, so allow extra space between you and the car in front.
  • Use anti-glare lenses. A specially developed lens coating can reduce glare and reflection by up to 90 percent.
  • Keep the windscreen smear-free. Make sure the windscreen and other windows are kept clean, and ensure the washer fluid is always topped up.
  • Regularly check and adjust the mirrors. Consider a car with an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
  • Be visible. Make sure your headlights are working.
  • Dip don’t dazzle. Dip your headlights when approaching oncoming traffic. Adjust the beam if you’re carrying a heavy load.
  • Slow down or stop. If your vision is causing concern, pull over in a safe place an take the necessary steps to improve your night-time vision.

Click here for more motoring advice.

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Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Writer with a penchant for #FrenchTat. Also doing a passable impression of Cousin Eddie in an Italian-German beige motorhome.


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