Winter driving hazardsPosted on: 16 December 2013 by 50connect editorial
The winter months are fast upon us and while, as drivers, we feel safe in our cars with the heating on full blast, changes to the weather present serious dangers where vision is concerned, says Andy Hepworth.
Around 3,000 road casualties are caused by drivers with poor vision in the UK each year. As winter approaches, factors such as low sun and darker evenings mean our eyes are put under even more strain. Here are the five key winter driving risks associated with eyesight and what can be done to prevent them.
With nights drawing in and thick cloud reducing daytime light, we spend more time driving in darker conditions. As a result, we’re more exposed to bright artificial light from oncoming headlights or street lights, causing what’s known as a distracting glare. Those who need to wear glasses when driving can use an anti-reflective coating on lenses to rectify this problem.
Changing light conditions
Unpredictable winter weather causes fluctuations in light levels; it can be bright one minute and dark the next. This discomforting glare can lead to squinting and eye fatigue for drivers, which is damaging to eyes and unsafe when on the road – particularly if it makes it hard to see what’s in front of us. Lenses which darken in the car as it gets brighter are worth considering if you suffer from this particular glare effect.
The sun is much lower in winter which causes a severe blinding glare that can be extremely dangerous, and can create a temporary blindness. A surprising number of people don’t use sun visors – they’re there for a reason, use them!
If the sun is behind you, remember it’s in the eyes of drivers coming towards you - be aware they may not be able to see you. In terms of eyewear, a polarising filter on lenses is the most effective way to minimise this glare. It will also significantly reduce eye strain and improve vision in these conditions.
In addition to making roads slippery and increasing stopping distances, rain creates a reflective road surface which, in combination with the bright low sun, exacerbates the blinding glare effect. Again, a polarising lens filter can combat this.
Wet roads are the culprit of a further winter driving hazard – the building up of dirt on car windscreens. Many drivers neglect to clean windscreens before setting off on a journey. Streaks, grease and smudges scatter light passing through the glass, making it difficult to see what’s ahead. The simple advice here – clean your windscreens!
Ensuring your vision is clear will go a very long way to keeping you, any passengers and others safe on the road. Having regular eye exams will not only check your vision, ensuring you have the correct prescription and lens solution to eliminate glare, but can also pick up underlying eye and even general health problems.
Winter driving presents risks, but they can be easily minimised with the right preparation.
Andy Hepworth is optical expert at www.thinkaboutyoureyes.co.uk.
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