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Night driving glasses: Help or hoax?

Man wearing night driving glasses while driving

What are night driving glasses?

Night driving glasses are usually non-prescription glasses with yellow tinted lenses. They often include some kind of anti-reflective coating. This helps prevent reflections from streetlights and oncoming headlights that cause eyeglass glare.

Night driving glasses tend to be very similar to shooting glasses, a type of sporting eyewear that’s been around for many years. In some cases, their lenses are identical.

People wear yellow-tinted shooting glasses for hunting to see an increase in the contrast of objects against an overcast sky. This makes them especially popular among bird hunters.

But do they really help you see better while you’re driving at night?

SEE RELATED: Night vision goggles and binoculars

Why night driving glasses might be a bad idea

Glasses with yellow tinted lenses can enhance contrast in certain daylight conditions. This is because the yellow tint filters some of the sun’s blue light.

This high-energy visible (HEV) blue light is more likely to cause glare when it enters the eye compared to other forms of visible light.

Amber- and copper-colored lenses also provide blue-light filtering. Using these darker tints can filter block much more blue light than lighter yellow lenses because they are also able to filter lower energy blue-turquoise light in addition to higher energy blue-violet light. But they also prevent more light from entering the eye. This reduces visibility even more in low-light conditions.

Even yellow lenses reduce the overall visible light to a degree, since they also filter some blue light. This might be a good thing during the day, but not at night — when maximum visibility is key.

What researchers say about night driving glasses

Researchers at Harvard’s Schepens Eye Research Institute recently conducted a study. The study aimed to find out whether night driving glasses provided any visual benefit for nighttime driving.

All 22 of the participants “drove” in four simulated night-driving conditions. They wore either yellow-tinted night driving glasses or glasses with clear lenses. Each participant also drove in scenarios with and without a headlight glare simulator activated. The goal was to mimic the effect of oncoming traffic.

In each scenario, participants’ reaction time to seeing a pedestrian along the simulated roadway was measured.

The study found that night driving glasses did not appear to improve:

  • How well participants detected pedestrians at night.

  • The negative effects of headlight glare on pedestrian detection.

“Our data suggest that wearing yellow-lens glasses when driving at night does not improve performance. Particularly in the most critical task: detection of pedestrians,” the study’s authors said.

In fact, the results found “that wearing yellow-lens glasses may slightly worsen performance.” But the finding “was not statistically significant.”

“These findings do not appear to support having eye care professionals advise patients to use yellow-lens night-driving glasses,” the authors concluded.

The best glasses for night driving

Start by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor. Many people who think their vision is fine are surprised to find out how much clearer they can see at night with new glasses. Even a small amount of refractive error correction can make a noticeable difference.

On the other hand, if you need prescription eyeglasses because you have nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, choose clear corrective lenses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating.

These lenses:

  • Allow almost 100% of visible light to enter your eyes.

  • Let your eyes focus properly on the road and other obstacles at night.

  • Reduce or cut the glare-causing reflections of streetlights and headlights within your lenses.

  • Offer the best possible vision for your eyes, since they’re based on your individual prescription.

Some people might wonder if they should buy clear lenses with AR coating for night driving even if they have no need for vision correction. The answer is no; AR coating only reduces the glare caused by the eyeglass lenses themselves. There is no visual benefit to wearing non-prescription lenses with AR coating.

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