Dangers of driving after dark

As British Summertime ends, a new survey of over 1,ooo motorists commissioned by the Eyecare Trust and not for profit insurer Westfield Health reveals more than half of Britain’s 34 million motorists struggle to see when driving after dark, whilst many more avoid driving at night altogether.

A quarter of motorists (25 per cent) admitted they had trouble focusing at night whilst 43 per cent said that things looked blurred when driving after dark and almost three quarters (73 per cent) of motorists said that glare from oncoming headlights caused visual discomfort.

So it’s little wonder that more road accidents occur at night than during the day. The adjustment to the nights suddenly beginning to draw in also seems to cause problems for drivers. A separate three-year study conducted by Zurich Connect found that accidents increased by 11 per cent in the fortnight directly after the clocks go back compared to the preceding two weeks.

Kelly Plahay, chair of the Eyecare Trust, comments: “Low light levels at night cause the pupil of the eye to become larger and this can accentuate any focusing errors – no matter how minor – causing blur. At night it’s therefore more important than ever to wear a pair of spectacles or contact lenses with an up-to-date prescription.

Plahay continues: “More than 90 per cent of information a driver uses is visual so ensuring your eyesight is up to scratch is crucial. Most people over the age of about 45 will need some vision correction to see in sharp focus. Ideally everyone should have their eyes checked every two years as your sight can change without it being obvious.”

The driving after dark survey found one in three motorists (31 per cent) refuse to drive at night. Halos and reflections around lights and headlamps can make your eyes feel uncomfortable. The most common cause of this is a dirty windscreen (often on the inside as well as the outside) or worn-out wiper blades, although scratched or dirty spectacles can be just as bad.

Older people often find night driving particularly stressful. With increasing age, the lens of the eye tends to yellow, reducing vision clarity. Major discomfort from glare can be caused by cataracts – a clouding of the eye lens which requires specialist treatment. In England and Wales, it is estimated that around 2.5 million people aged 65 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts.

Kelly Plahay advises: “If you are affected by oncoming headlights, try concentrating on the nearside kerb as you drive – but remember to slow down!”

Paul Shires, of Westfield Health, says: “Motorists have a legal requirement to ensure their vision meets certain minimum eyesight standards(4) every time they get behind the wheel. If you’re having trouble focusing or you’re being dazzled by glare from oncoming headlights when driving at night, it could be an indication that your vision is falling below these minimum standards.”

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