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Your eyes are linked with your safety on the road these holidays

The festive season is on the horizon and South Africans are gearing up for their treks to holiday destinations across the country. Early morning departures in the dark and travelling long distances in the summer sun and rain can play havoc on drivers; with fatigue, poor visibility, glare and inappropriate eyewear hindering best attempts to stay focused on the road ahead.

couple driving with glasses

“Poor vision and driver fatigue are amongst the causes of accidents on South African roads. Appropriate eyewear can improve vision which can promote better driving and road safety. If you have prescription glasses for driving, make sure you wear them. If you don’t but you are experiencing symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, eye fatigue, inability to focus and sore, burning or red eyes, it is a good idea to have an eye test. Your optometrist will be able to give qualified advice on the best lenses and sunglasses for driving. This is especially important if you are going to be driving long distances,” says Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision.

Single focus long distance lenses could be prescribed for those with good distance vision but poor dashboard vision. For people in their 40s, conventional bifocal lenses might be suitable for dashboard distance, but from aged 50 onwards, these might be focused too closely to get sharp enough dashboard detail.

If necessary, eyewear specifically for driving can be customised to suit the driver’s requirements, however these might not be suitable for other activities. According to Naude, there are many multifocal lens options available including mutifocals that have been specifically designed for driving.  These multifocals have a wider intermediate area which help to provide improved clear visibility of the dashboard, instruments, sat nav and rear and side mirrors. SEIKO DRIVE X for progressive lenses, for example, have been designed to optimize the intermediate field of vision you need for driving, which helps to reduce eye strain and fatigue.

Sunglasses with polarized lenses are a must-have for every driver – even those with 20 /20 vision. These lenses stop glare from headlights, the sun and even wet road surfaces. These will also filter out harmful ultraviolet radiation. In misty and foggy conditions, polarized lenses can also sharpen details and improve contrast. Reducing strain on the eyes and providing UV protection with polarized lenses makes driving more comfortable and safer. Conventional sunglasses cannot effectively filter out glare and in many conditions, such as in fog, can actually reduce visibility.

Night time and before-dawn driving also present vision challenges. Aside from the darkness, which hinders visibility of objects, the improved visibility of modern xenon and LED headlights come with an increased light density and luminance. To a lot of people these headlights therefore feel brighter and more blinding.

The ideal prescription lens for driving at night is a clear lens with an anti-reflective coating to reduce irritating glare and reflections from oncoming traffic, wet surfaces and other sources. Fixed tint glasses would have to be swapped for another set for night driving.

Naude concludes with these quick tips for safer driving:

  • Make sure your windscreen is clean and scratch-free. 
  • Clean headlights and make sure that the bulbs are in good working order. 
  • Don’t stare at oncoming headlights - it takes longer to recover from the glare. Avert, yes slightly to the left. 
  • Reduce speed in conditions of poor visibility such as in the dark and when it is foggy or raining.
  • Do not buy night driving glasses off the shelf.
  • Get at least seven hours sleep before embarking on a long distance journey.
  • Stop regularly at petrol station rest stops to stretch your legs and rest your eyes from focusing on the road.


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