Do you consider yourself a good driver? Most of us should feel confident behind the wheel, but do you ever feel that your driving ability changes when the sun goes down?
For some people, driving at night or in the dark can cause fear or uneasiness. For those living with vision impairments, such as keratoconus, there can be additional factors that come into play when driving in the dark, like glare or difficulty reading street signs. Whether you’re living with a vision impairment, or simply looking for advice on how to feel more comfortable driving in the dark, keep reading for some tips that may help.
What is Night Vision?
Night vision, as described by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is “the ability to see in low light conditions.” This means your pupils become larger and your eyes let in more light, enabling your eyes to adjust to the darkness and allowing you to perform tasks such as driving.
However, not everyone has good night vision. There can be a variety of reasons why people have trouble with night vision and driving at night, including conditions like keratoconus, cataracts, glaucoma, and Fushs’ Dystrophy. People may have difficulty seeing cars and reading signs that are farther away, increasingly blurry vision, or experience glare or halos (intense circles of light around headlights or other light sources).
What Can Be Done to Help With Poor Night Vision?
We know that driving is an important part of life, and driving in the dark is often necessary to commute to and from work or school, to run an errand, or to enjoy an evening out with family and friends. However, if you’re nervous to drive at night or concerned about your vision, you may be hesitant to leave the house if you need to go somewhere.
- Always wear your contacts or glasses at night. This is especially important if you need to wear them during the day. Similarly, if you think your prescription might be outdated, go to your eye care professional and have it updated ASAP.
- Clean your windshield and windows (inside and out), headlights, and taillights.
- Adjust your mirrors before driving.
- Make sure your headlights are working, and if needed, replace bulbs so the road is well lit.
While the above are great tips to help make you feel more confident behind the wheel, be careful of some of the “easy fixes” that may be advertised, such as night driving glasses. While these glasses may improve your comfort while driving, there is no data that shows they can help with night driving performance, nor with pedestrian detection. The tinted or polarized lenses used in these glasses are designed to reduce the amount of light getting to the eye, which one expert believes might actually make it harder to see at night, not easier.
You’re Not Alone
If you’ve had some challenges driving in the dark, you are not alone. Certain vision conditions, particularly keratoconus, can have a direct impact on night driving. Below are some examples of people who are living with keratoconus and have struggled with driving at night:
- Andre’s declining vision made night more challenging when the glare of headlights made it hard for him to see the road.
- Nishi had difficulty reading street signs, and headlights bothered her eyes while driving at night.
- For Aaron, as a truck driver, driving at night presented unique challenges, specifically while he was trying to back up his rig at the terminal.
- Dione dreaded driving at night. One particularly scary moment was when she picked her mom up from the airport and nearly ran over the median because she couldn’t see it.
- Kenny found himself needing to pull over while driving at night due to the unbearable glare from the car lights.
While there are many more stories of people who have struggled while driving at night due to their vision issues, in some cases, receiving a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment allowed them to once again feel comfortable driving at night. Some people living with progressive keratoconus were able to manage their condition successfully by receiving FDA-approved cross-linking or specialty lenses. Read their full KC Journeys to understand their experiences with the keratoconus.
Don’t Hesitate to Make an Appointment
If you’re still unsure whether or not you should be driving at night, make an appointment with your eye care professional. Between basic questions and a vision test, they can help you decide.
When it comes to driving at night, Dr. Ken Beckman, of Comprehensive EyeCare of Central Ohio, encourages patients to make an appointment so they can get the appropriate lenses to optimize their vision: “The night driving issues are typically due to the high refractive error and distortion of the cornea. The patients need to optimize their vision in general, with glasses or contacts. Anti-reflective coating on glasses may help, as may certain tints, but this is very subjective for each patient.”
Driving at night shouldn’t be stressful, but we know it can be somewhat nerve-racking at times, especially if you’re living with keratoconus or experiencing some other vision issue. We hope to arm you with the information necessary to make a change so you can regain confidence behind the wheel. Remember, if you are still unsure if you should be driving at night, speak with an expert on the topic to determine what is right for you.
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