Driving Sunglasses: Why are They Important, and How Do You Choose the Best Pair?

March 16, 2024

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Situation awareness is one of the most important things you need to maintain as a driver. You're handling heavy machinery, after all, and we've noted that every vehicle has blind spots that may block your view of other vehicles and pedestrians. Situation awareness can also tell you when to do certain maneuvers, like making way for an oncoming car.

 

That ultimately makes this skill essential—especially in the US, one of the busiest countries in terms of road traffic with a higher likelihood of a car accident. But how can you maintain situation awareness if you can't see the road properly?

 

Here's where driving sunglasses come in. Read on to learn more about why they're so important and how you can pick the right pair for your needs.

 

Why should you wear sunglasses while driving?

 

Though there are a few reasons driving sunglasses are essential, one stands out: the sun's glare. It can bounce off reflective materials like asphalt—which can look shiny in certain conditions—water, snow, and the windows of surrounding vehicles to obstruct your vision. This could cost you the precious seconds it can take to spot and get out of potential accidents.

 

Driving sunglasses block that glare and keep you safe on the road. If you choose the right pair, it can even offer additional benefits like improved visual acuity, reduced eye strain for comfort, enhanced color and contrast—and, of course, protection from UV rays that can cause permanent blindness in the long run.

 

How to choose the best driving sunglasses

 

Add your prescription

 

If you wear eyeglasses and drive often, it's best to buy prescription sunglasses that provide both vision correction and protection. They're more convenient to wear and can thus be more effective for ensuring road safety than similar alternatives like transition lenses. That's because the latter takes time to darken in the shade of your car and takes longer to work in the winter months. Prescription sunglasses are pretty easy to obtain, too. Dozens of popular brands—ranging from Ray-Ban to Tom Ford—offer them, so all you need to do is head to a retailer, select a sunglasses style and lenses, and provide your prescription details before making your purchase.

 

Choose large lenses

 

Large lenses may be the best option when you're choosing driving sunglasses. With a bigger lens size—like those on the wraparound models offered by brands like Maui Jim and Prada—you'll get unobstructed peripheral vision that's great for maintaining peak situation awareness. The large lenses on aviator-style sunglasses can also protect more of the eye area. If you're considering oversized sunglasses for their lenses, though, get a pair with thin arms. Otherwise, the thick plastic frames on most oversized sunglasses may block your peripheral vision instead.

 

Get polarized coatings

 

These coatings are arguably the most important thing you need to look for in driving sunglasses. That's because polarized sunglasses are specifically designed to shield against the sun's glare. Their coatings are applied vertically, allowing them to block out horizontal rays of sunlight. Brands like Oakley even include further technology to their polarized lenses that improve color and contrast, allowing you to better identify objects on the road. To check if your sunglasses are polarized, try to wear them while looking at your phone. If you can't make out what's on the screen, the sunnies are good to go.

 

Select the right tint and color

 

Though beneficial to wear, not all sunglasses are safe for driving. Those with lens tints that are too dark—only allowing for 3-8% light transmission—can work against you and obstruct your view of the road. Check with your retailer to ensure the sunglasses you want to wear provide anywhere between 18-80% light transmission. Sunglasses with a certain color can also affect your safety while driving. Those with yellow and amber lenses are particularly helpful for improving color and contrast. However, steer clear (pun intended) of blue, green, or rose-tinted lenses. These can impact your ability to read stop signs.

 

If the sun affects your situation awareness on the road, wear driving sunglasses. Try the tips above to choose the best pair for your needs.

 

 

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