You’re not alone! This is by far one of the most common complaints that I get in the exam room. If you do have a correction for distance, then always wear it when you’re driving. A large majority of those complaining of night driving difficulties have a slight prescription. During the day it may not seem like it makes a huge difference but at night it will be extremely helpful.
At night our pupils get larger to let more light in and that means more glare as well. If we aren’t accurately corrected it makes things worse. My advice for anyone with a distance prescription who is experiencing difficulty with night driving is to wear your glasses.
Now let’s talk a little bit about glare or that halo around lights you can get with night driving even while wearing glasses. A distance prescription helps but if you don’t have an anti-reflective coating on the lens, it could actually make things worse. My recommendation is to have a high-quality anti-reflective coating or a blue light filter coating on the lens. The blue light filter actually works extremely well for night driving.
The people that will be hardest hit are those that are post-LASIK, post-RK, and those with cataracts. Being in one of those categories means you are going to have more glare with lights coming directly at you. With each individual we can go over what would work best. Sometimes patients have a separate pair of glasses just for night driving.
What about contacts? One difficulty with contacts is that they can dry out as the day goes on. If a contact dries out it will cause blurry vision and glare. Contact lens wearers, make sure you are in the moistest lens possible for your eyes. This is usually a daily disposable lens but they are not available for every prescription.
If a patient is in monovision contacts (one eye for distance and one eye for up close), driving at night is always terrible. It just is. There is no magic I can put into the contacts to magically make them not terrible unless the patient is willing to give up a lot of clarity up close. Of course, there are always options.
Option one is to have a separate set of contacts that is just set for seeing the distance. The difficulty here is you have to switch contacts and you can’t see your dash. The good thing is if you are using them for a specific task like tennis, they work great.
Option 2 is to have a pair of glasses to wear over the contacts specifically for night driving. The glasses will readjust the reading eye to correct for distance again. Since both eyes are seeing clearly in the distance it makes driving nice and crisp. I recommend having this as a progressive (this will give you a near correction in the lens) or you will not be able to see your dash or GPS while driving.
Option 3 is to remove the contacts and have a set of progressive lenses for night driving.
If a patient is in multifocal contacts, again, the vision will be terrible for driving at night. Multifocal contacts have multiple prescriptions that you look through simultaneously in the lens and can give a slight shadowing effect even during the daytime. At night the shadowing and glare from headlights is considerably worse than if you weren’t in a multifocal lens. We have to find a compromise.
Option one is to have a pair of distance only contacts for driving. Again, this makes seeing the dash difficult.
Option two is to decrease the amount of near help in the lens in favor of the distance.
Option three is the safest and my favorite recommendation, have a pair of progressive glasses for night driving if you feel uncomfortable and are driving a considerable distance. Glasses will be the gold standard. I will never be able to match the vision you have in the glasses with the contacts.
I meet a shocking large amount of contact lens wearers, especially monovision or multifocal, that have no glasses as back up. I find time and time again, if you do not have glasses as back up you will always overwear your lenses. You will wear them when you have a red eye, when your eyes are itchy, and even if wear is painful. You will wear them because you have no other option to see. This is not healthy for your eyes. I fit patients in contacts every day and they are a great option, but they cannot be the only option. Surprisingly those that have the most complaints about contacts both vision and comfort wise seem the most adamantly opposed to glasses.
I hope this was helpful in giving you some ideas to help with that pesky night driving. The best way to come up with a plan is to talk to your eye care provider or optician about your specific needs. If you want to talk to us about come in for an optical styling consultation.