The UK registered 49.9 million drivers in 2019 according to the DVLA.
And with 73% of the population relying on personal transport, it’s interesting to know that 74% of us need to wear glasses.
I’m guessing you’re one of them?
Whether you’re a new to glasses or you’re a seasoned pro, this handy guide can help keep you on the right side of the law and hopefully the road.
1. Glasses frame shape
Yep, the shape of your glasses can actually affect your road safety.
Extremely broad or chunky temples (the arms) can impede your hazard perception by blocking the edges of your peripheral vision. (Example above)
Which is something to consider if you’re choosing a specific pair of varifocal or distance glasses for driving. In this instance, glasses with thin a thin construction can help you avoid that “blinkered” effect, especially for switching lanes on a motorway or dual carriageway.
Photo credit: Alisdair Cusick via "The Grey Fox Blog"
2. Do you meet the standard?
Did you sit your driving test wearing glasses or contact lenses?
If so, you must continue to use them each and every time you drive a car.
Failure to do so or driving whilst medically unfit may result in a fine (as much as £1,000) if you’re caught or involved in an incident.
“Cassie’s Law” was introduced in 2013 stating that the police have the ability to temporarily suspend UK licence holders if they are deemed unfit to drive.
3. To declare or not to declare?
If your vision has deteriorated and you no longer meet the standards of vision for driving, you must declare this to the DVLA. If your optician has advised you against driving, you must state this and surrender your licence.
If you’ve always worn glasses, a full UK driving licence will state your requirement for visual correction. This is stated on the rear-side of a UK driving licence in box 12 under the code “01.” (See image below)
If you recently started wearing glasses, you don’t need to declare this to the DVLA. Your requirement for corrective glasses or contact lenses for short or long sightedness isn’t a notable change to your ability to drive.
4. Your insurance policy
Driving without your glasses can impede your hazard perception and increases your likelihood of a collision or serious incident.
Worse still, it can invalidate your insurance policy which eradicates your ability to make a claim with your insurance company. Damages incurred will then be your responsibility.
In the cause of severe injury or death, you can face legal implications such as a fine and even a prison sentence.
In 2019, TyrePros.co.uk conducted a survey of 1,000 participants “which found that one in five glasses wearers admitted to driving without wearing the correct eyewear.”
Our advice? Always wear your distance glasses for driving with an up to date prescription.
"Automobile Polo" Coney Island, New York – 1913 | Credit: tribupedia.com
5. Optimum hazard perception
Which glasses are best for driving?
There are two crucial vision zones to help you see whilst you’re driving.
Intermediate vision is anything at around arm’s length such as your dashboard, speed dials and rear-view mirror.
Distance vision is anything beyond arm’s length; pretty much everything on the road ahead or behind you.
Glasses which aid these vision zones are your best option to help your driving. These can be single vision or multifocal lenses, depending on your prescription.
How do I know if I need glasses for distance?
If you struggle to see far away, this means you’re myopic (nearsighted) and require corrective lenses with a minus (-) dioptric power.
Behind the wheel, distance glasses for driving will help you detect hazards on the road, plan your reaction to oncoming traffic signals, pedestrians and road signs.
Myopia is extremely common and is easily detected by an optometrist in what is called a visual acuity test. This is when you are asked to read aloud letters from a distanced Snellen chart.Get your free Snellen chart
What type of glasses should not be worn when driving?
When driving at night, avoid wearing glasses with tinted lenses. They’ll reduce the amount of visible light reaching your eyes which makes it more difficult to see.
Tints can be applied to any lens, varying from 0%, (white,) to 99% (black.) The stronger the tint, the less visible light can pass through the lens.
Sunglasses are great for driving on bright sunny days, but it’s inadvisable to wear them when it’s overcast, in the early morning or late in the evening.
Photo credit: Alisdair Cusick via "The Grey Fox Blog"
6. Varifocal wearer?
Varifocals are an extremely common lens-type for driving with glasses.
Due to the way they work, varifocals can correct your close, intermediate and distance vision all in one pair of lenses. This can be incredibly helpful for driving. However, they can also take a little while to get used to, especially if you’re new to wearing them.
Be careful and take the time to practice wearing your new varifocals before getting behind the wheel. This can take between a few hours or even a few days to become acclimatised.
Varifocals for driving
You can choose varifocal lenses specifically for driving which are tailored to help your intermediate and distance vision. The also have a wider “vision corridor” which is the central section within the lens to help you see.
7. Reduce headlight glare
At dawn or dusk, oncoming or trailing headlights and even road lighting can play havoc with your lenses and perception of the road.
Flashes of bright light can bounce off your lenses which can cause distraction, potentially leading to eye strain and even cause you to miss potential hazards.
To combat this, opt for an additional lens coating called anti-reflective (also called anti-glare or AR for short.) This lets light pass more easily through your lenses (as much as 50%) which can improve your vision early in the morning or at night.
Better still, reflections from surrounding headlights can pass through either side of your lens instead of bouncing into your eyes or illuminating parts of your lenses.
8. Blue light blocking lenses
Ok, so there’s another lens coating we can add called “anti blue light.”
It’s designed to help reduce high energy visible light (HEV) that emits from digital screens such as computer monitors, tablets and mobile phones etc.
Trouble is, it might interfere with your vision at night whilst driving with glasses.
When regular headlights reflect off the rear side of your lenses, they can look blue. Cars behind you can potentially appear like the emergency services like an ambulance is trying to pass you.
This doesn’t apply to everyone and is really just a personal preference. However, it’s something to think about if you’re also keen on protecting your eyes from HEV light.
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Who knows, maybe you can help someone avoid an incident on the road or from receiving a fine from the police.
Thanks for reading.
A simple guide to distance glasses. Learn what they're used for, why you might need them and how they differ from intermediate or reading glasses.