HomeEye CareVision Resources

The complete guide to road-ready vision

Important factors like driving habits and auto maintenance all contribute to a safe driving experience. But one factor can get lost among oil changes and speed limits — your vision.

About 90% of the information you process as a driver comes through your eyes. Even minor vision disturbances can completely change the way you respond to your surroundings.

In some cases, healthy vision can even be the difference between getting into an accident and avoiding one altogether.

Your vision needs to adapt to countless changes in light and the environment throughout the day. Maintaining your eye health and making small adjustments to see more clearly can significantly improve your driving safety.

In this guide, you'll learn how your vision changes when you're driving — and what you can do to keep it working at the highest level. That includes:

  • How the time of day can affect your vision

  • Driving vision during different weather conditions

  • Common eye and vision issues people experience on the road

  • How age affects your driving vision

  • Eyewear that can improve road safety

  • The dangers of distracted driving

  • Other ways to help your road vision

Road vision during different times of the day

Driving may seem like a one-size-fits-all activity, but where your sight is concerned, that’s far from the case.

Different times of day can call different parts of your vision into action, and a little preparation can help you stay safe.

Sunrise and sunset

The first trip of the day for many is an early morning commute to work or school, and the last trip is the ride home. Depending on your location and the time of year, that can mean driving during sunrise or sunset.

You probably know that looking into the sun is bad for your eyes. But the sun can also cause indirect harm when it changes how you react on the road.

Direct sunlight tends to "wash out" your surroundings by pushing brightness to an uncomfortable level, reducing contrast and making it harder to see objects around you. When light hits objects like smudges or sediment on your windshield, it becomes even more distracting.

It probably comes as no surprise that the sun affects your eyesight most when you're driving directly toward it, but it can also cause problems when it's shining into your peripheral (side) vision or one of your mirrors.

If you’ve had your picture taken recently with a flash, you may remember seeing an afterimage, a false image that appears after you look at a bright light.

The sun can cause a strong afterimage that lingers for many seconds after you glance in its direction. The phenomenon creates a temporary blind spot and reduces the visibility of your surroundings.

After-dawn and before-dusk sunlight can also produce distracting glare as it bounces around your windshield, windows and glasses.

To prepare for driving during a bright sunrise or sunset:

  • Always carry sunglasses. Sunglasses come in different shades of darkness. If seeing during sunrise is a regular problem for you, consider buying a second, darker pair to use only in extra-bright conditions.

  • Make sure your windshield is clean and in good condition. Smudges, cracks and pits along either side of your windshield can become even more noticeable when sunlight strikes them at certain angles. If your windshield has many noticeable imperfections, consider replacing it with a new one.

  • Clean your glasses and/or sunglasses before you leave. Think of your glasses as a "second windshield" — the same rules apply for keeping them clean, especially in direct sunlight.

  • Clean your mirrors. Dirt, fingerprints and imperfections can also affect the view through your rearview and side mirrors.

  • Remember to use your visor. Block direct sunlight without blocking too much of your field of vision.

  • Never look directly into the sun. Not only can this damage your eyes, it can also distort part of your vision with an afterimage for a short period of time.

Daytime

It might not seem like the high afternoon sun on a clear day would cause any problems for your vision, since it's overhead and out of view. But these hours can come with their own set of challenges.

Even though direct sun isn't a problem at this time, there are still plenty of ways sunlight can find its way into your eyes. The biggest problem is glare, bright reflected or distorted light that can have a major effect on your road vision.

Road surfaces and other cars are the most common sources of glare during late morning, afternoon and pre-dusk hours. When sunlight hits these objects and reflects back into your eyes, it can feel almost as uncomfortable as looking directly at the sun itself.

High-quality sunglasses — even better, polarized sunglasses — provide an essential barrier between glare and your eyes. Polarized sunglasses include a special coating on each lens specifically designed to reduce glare.

When you're driving during the day:

  • Always carry sunglasses. Regular sunglasses can help, but polarized sunglasses may be able to offer an even clearer driving experience.

  • Clean your glasses and/or sunglasses. Smudges can distort the way your surroundings look, and a quick cleaning solves this problem. If your glasses have noticeable scratches on their lenses, consider replacing them with new ones.

  • Keep your windshield, windows and mirrors clean and free of defects. Clean your windows inside and out, and replace the windshield if needed. This can reduce or eliminate the distracting light that bounces off imperfections.

Nighttime

Your sense of vision becomes even more important at night, when light is scarce and visual cues are harder to spot. Only 25% of total driving happens at night, but nighttime accidents account for 50% of all driving deaths.

Without the sun, your eyes don't have the luxury of well-lit surroundings. Even with streetlights, vehicles, signs, information boards, road markings, pedestrians and other objects on the road all become harder to see. On a poorly lit country road, objects can seem almost invisible until they're right in front of you.

Your eyes also take much longer to adjust to darkness. If you move from a lighted setting to a very dark one, your eyes take between five and eight minutes to adjust to darkness.

In complete darkness, they can take as long as 40 minutes to fully adjust.

Fortunately, thanks to headlights and streetlights, night driving doesn't take place in total darkness. But even partial darkness calls for certain adjustments.

Glare can be a big problem at night, but for a completely different reason. Instead of natural sunlight, artificial lights now stream across your field of view, bouncing around windows, mirrors, wet roads and even your glasses.

Some people see halos and starburst shapes around headlights and streetlights, adding one more layer to an already complicated driving time.

Even if you don't see these effects, avoid looking directly into oncoming headlights and streetlights. Like the sun, they can temporarily stun your eyes and create a distracting afterimage in your vision.

When you're driving at night:

  • Use your high beams only when it makes sense. Use your best judgment and utilize high-beam headlights in very dark settings — and only when other drivers aren't traveling toward you.

  • Don't look directly into oncoming headlights. This decreases glare and limits any afterimages. Avoid looking directly at streetlights too.

  • Check and clean your headlights often. Make sure your headlights are properly adjusted to shine on the road instead of into other drivers' eyes. If the clear coverings around your headlights now look faded and murky, consider replacing them with new covers.

  • Keep your windshield and windows clean and free of defects. Dirty or damaged windows can obstruct your vision and change the way you see outside light.

  • Flip your rearview mirror to the "night" position. A quick flip of the mirror significantly reduces the brightness of any headlights behind you.

If you wear glasses, consider anti-reflective lenses. These glasses include an extra lens coating that weakens any reflections bouncing around your lenses.

Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

How weather affects road vision

Weather can change without warning in many parts of the world. A clear sunrise can turn into an overcast, drizzly afternoon, then shift to half-frozen sleet by dinnertime.

Knowing how to safely navigate these conditions is a skill in itself, even when weather changes are more gradual.

Your eyes play the same critical role in any condition, but different types of weather can change the way you interpret the light they absorb.

Fog

If there's one weather condition that most directly affects your vision, it might be fog. When fog is involved, you'll hear meteorologists warning you about specific viewing distances: The shorter the distance you’re able to see ahead of you, the more dangerous.

Fog — and similar events like dust storms — can reduce the precious seconds you have to react to drivers and objects around you.

But its effect on viewing distance isn't the only reason fog is dangerous, according to Dr. Marc Green, a human factors specialist who has studied vision's relationship to driving for more than 50 years.

During foggy conditions, Green explains that:

  • Contrast is lower. Fog occurs when countless tiny water droplets become suspended in the air. When light hits this moisture it scatters, it limits your eyes' ability to differentiate light and dark colors.

  • You can't gauge speed and distance as well. Thanks to lower contrast, our eyes and brain have a harder time telling the difference between objects that are moving and ones that are standing still.

  • Your vision rests at shorter distances. When visibility is poor, your eyes tend to return to a "resting" distance of about three feet. This is known as the Mandelbaum Effect; you might have noticed it the last time you tried to look at an object in the distance through a nearby window screen.

If you need to drive in fog:

  • Drive slower than usual. It can be tempting to drive at normal speeds in a lighter fog, but by driving slower, you increase the amount of time you have to react when an object quickly enters your field of vision.

  • Don't use your high-beam headlights. Brighter light will not help you see through fog, Green says. In reality, the light reflects off the tiny water particles back toward your eyes, decreasing visibility. However, using your regular headlights improves visibility for other drivers.

  • Check your mirrors often. Other drivers may not be driving as cautiously as you are. Check your mirrors often so you can react as quickly as possible if a driver behind you is driving carelessly.

Rain

Rainfall can range from mist to monsoon; each point along the way affects your vision a little differently.

While you're driving, rain can:

  • Scatter and reflect light. Driving in the rain can be dangerous when your headlights don't work as well, making roads, signs, cars and pedestrians harder to recognize.

  • Affect your peripheral vision. Good peripheral (side) vision is crucial on the road, since it alerts you to objects before they enter your direct field of view. During heavy rain, people are more likely to focus straight ahead and ignore their side vision, Green says.

  • Partially block your central vision. If it's raining hard enough, even the fastest windshield wiper setting can't clear water fast enough. In more moderate rain, wipers still leave your windshield uncleared for a split second between each pass.

Rain is especially hazardous at night, Green says, since it changes your direct perception of your surroundings and the appearance of roads and road markers. At times, rain can make critical markers almost invisible.

For the best vision during rain:

  • Routinely replace wiper blades. Even perfect wipers can't clear all rain, all the time. But the more effective they are, the more water they'll clear from your field of vision.

  • Drive cautiously. On top of the visual hazards, your tires have less grip on a wet road. Make sure your tires are in good condition and give yourself more time to react by driving slower in the rain than you normally would.

  • Avoid your high beams in heavy rain. It's tempting to switch on the bright lights during a downpour, but most of the light will only reflect back toward your vehicle. The regular headlight setting offers a better balance of light and makes your car more visible to other drivers.

  • Check your mirrors often. Your eyes tend to gaze straight ahead when conditions are poor. Try to remember to check your mirrors as much as you can.

Snow

On a sunny day, fresh snow is one of the brightest naturally occurring substances on Earth. It's even brighter than the brilliantly white ice that floats on the world's coldest bodies of water.

That's because snow reflects up to 90% of the light that strikes it. In direct sunlight, that doesn't leave much light leftover. Snow can even lead to temporary vision loss if your eyes are exposed long enough.

Snow can also cover lane markers, obstruct road signs and gather on your windshield in certain situations. Heavy snowfall and blizzards nearly block your vision altogether, making them even more dangerous.

Dr. Joshua Dunaief, an ophthalmology professor at the University of Pennsylvania,  reminds drivers to stay mindful of dry eyes too. Blustery weather and heating from car vents can both increase tear evaporation and make your eyes feel dry and uncomfortable.

Dry eyes can lead to blurry vision — one more obstacle added to already hazardous conditions. To limit the effects of dry eye, Dunaief recommends blinking more often, using artificial tears and cleaning your eyelids everyday.

When you drive in snowy weather, make sure to:

  • Bring sunglasses. Protecting your eyes from blindingly bright snow helps you see your surroundings more comfortably on a sunny day. Gray- or brown-colored lenses are best, and polarized lenses may provide extra-crisp vision, Dunaief says.

  • Don't use your high beams in heavy snowfall. Brighter light will simply reflect more light off highly reflective snowflakes and back into your vision.

  • Drive slow. The cardinal rule of winter driving benefits your vision too. Driving slower gives you more time to react when you need it most — especially when dense snowfall or black ice is involved.

  • Routinely replace wiper blades. Heavy snowfalls can cause snow to gather on your windshield that needs to be cleared quickly. In "wet" snow or sleet, it can liquefy just as quickly. Good wiper blades help clear snow and sleet with minimal effort.

Regularly clean road salt off of your windows and mirrors. Salt is great at melting snow and ice, but not so great at keeping your car clean. When salt residue gathers on your windshield, windows or mirrors, it can obstruct your vision.

Common eye-related complaints on the road

Drivers are no strangers to vision problems. Around 1 in 5 drivers can't see the road clearly due to an uncorrected problem with their eyesight.

The World Health Organization estimates that at least one billion people worldwide have impaired vision that can either be treated or could have been prevented. The group also notes that poor eyesight is one of the biggest risk factors for auto crashes.

Problems like eye fatigue can affect anyone. But symptoms like blurry vision and light sensitivity can be signs of an eye condition — one that eye doctors can often treat.

Taking simple steps to recognize the signs of eye problems, and getting those problems treated, can greatly improve your safety on the road.

Blurry vision

Vision that looks fuzzy or blurry is a common problem drivers face. Objects appear out of focus and make it harder to process important visual cues on the road — cues that sometimes require a split-second decision.

Blurry vision is often caused by a simple refractive error, a common problem that causes light to enter the eye the wrong way.

The four common refractive errors are:

  1. Nearsightedness (myopia) – The most common refractive error. A slightly elongated eyeball shape makes near objects look more focused and objects further away look blurry.

  2. Farsightedness (hyperopia) – A slightly shortened eyeball shape makes distant objects look more focused and nearby objects look blurry.

  3. Astigmatism – A misshapen cornea or lens can make objects look blurry at any distance, affecting near vision, distance vision or both. Astigmatism can also change the way lights look at night, making nighttime driving more challenging for some people.

  4. Presbyopia – The natural loss of a person’s ability to focus on near objects that eventually happens to everyone, usually sometime after age 40.

All four refractive errors can impact your road safety. Nearsightedness can make it hard to see information boards and other vehicles, while farsightedness and presbyopia can change the way you view your dashboard or GPS. Astigmatism can include all of these problems.

Fortunately, a new pair of prescription glasses or contact lenses can treat the effects of most refractive errors.

Blurry vision can be a sign of another eye problem too. Issues like eye fatigue, dry eyes and certain eye disorders can also make your eyesight seem out of focus.

If objects around you start to look blurry, an eye doctor may be able to help you see clearly in as little as a few days.

If your vision changes suddenly, see a doctor as soon as you can.

Eye fatigue

If you've ever been on a long drive, you probably know what it feels like to have fatigued, tired eyes.

Dr. Zaina Al-Mohtaseb, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Baylor University, offers the following tips to reduce eye fatigue:

  • Stay as well-rested as possible.

  • Relax your eyes by taking frequent breaks.

  • If you have prescription glasses or contacts, don't drive without them. Glasses are preferable to contacts for longer trips.

  • See an eye doctor if you start to notice anything unusual with your vision.

In some cases, eye fatigue can be a symptom of an uncorrected refractive error. If tired eyes are a consistent problem, schedule an eye exam when you get back from your trip.

Dry eyes

Along the outside of each eye, a thin layer of fluids and oils keeps the surface lubricated and comfortable. Any disturbance to the fragile tear film can cause dry eyes — a problem that ranges from annoying to painful.

Several common factors can increase the chance of eye dryness:

  • Using air conditioning in warm weather

  • Using heat during cold weather

  • Windy weather

  • Cold weather

  • Dry weather

  • Seasonal allergies

When you use air conditioning or heat, direct the air vents down instead of directly toward your face. That way, you'll still cool down (or warm up) without the eye-drying effects of direct air.

When you're driving in mild weather, try to limit how far you roll down your windows, to keep the air "still" inside the vehicle.

The simplest treatment for dry eyes is often artificial tears, eye drops that mimic the effect of your natural tears.

More severe dry eye may require thicker ointments, but be careful not to use them before you get in the car — they can blur your vision for several minutes after use.

Halos and starbursts around lights

These light effects occur when something changes the way light enters the eye. Halos look like big rings around lights and starbursts appear as star-like streaks that emanate from each light source.

Halos and starbursts are most noticeable in low-light conditions, and both can make it harder to drive at night. They're particularly bothersome around streetlights and headlights.

These visual effects increase the amount of space each light occupies in your field of view. When numerous streetlights or headlights are in your direct vision, halos and starbursts can be very distracting, and may even affect your driving safety.

Several different eye conditions can cause halos or starbursts, including cataracts and astigmatism. Treating their underlying cause, or finding ways to adapt to them, can improve your driving safety and comfort at night.

Light sensitivity

People who are sensitive to light experience visual discomfort in sunlight and other bright light, and sometimes, in nearly any light at all.

Light sensitivity can have a big impact on day and night driving. Sunlight, weak overcasts, reflections and snow can all cause discomfort during the day, much like the effects of headlights and streetlights at night.

Light sensitivity can be a symptom of a number of eye conditions, some more serious than others. It can also come with age, environmental factors and the use of certain medications.

Sunglasses with 100% UV protection and polarization are a front-line treatment for any sensitivity caused by light. In some cases, an eye doctor might recommend special sunglasses or contact lenses.

Contact lens issues

Contact lenses can cause discomfort at any time of day, especially when you're focused on the road. Contact issues might be annoying at home, but they can be distracting and even dangerous when you're driving.

Common problems with your contacts can cause:

  • Dry eyes

  • Blurry vision

  • Eye redness

  • A feeling that something is stuck in your eye

  • Eye pain

  • Other types of irritation

You may be able to treat these problems with proper contact lens hygiene and the occasional use of lubricating eye drops made specially for contacts. Other problems might require a different approach.

If you experience a lot of pain when you wear contacts or notice significant eye redness or discharge, visit an eye doctor as soon as you can.

When to get help

If you experience sudden vision changes, pain, discharge or any other concerning symptoms, see an eye doctor as soon as possible. These can be signs of a serious condition that could lead to vision loss if left untreated.

SEE RELATED INFOGRAPHICS: 5 Most common vision problems while driving and Signs you need glasses on the road

How age affects your vision on the road

Eyesight goes through changes as you age, and each change can have its own effect on your driving habits.

It's a misconception that older drivers are unsafe drivers. One report from the European Road Safety Observatory found that older drivers didn't necessarily put others at risk so much as they themselves were more at risk, in the event of an accident. Most of the risk was attributed to the body simply becoming more frail with age.

One set of statistics showed that drivers aged 21-24 were actually more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those aged 65-74.

But it's still important to understand the vision changes that come with age. That way, you can adapt your road habits to better suit your eyesight.

Sharpness of vision

When people are young, certain parts of their eyes are strong and flexible. As they age, these areas become weaker and stiffer.

These changes can gradually cause:

  • Difficulty focusing on objects, especially close-up objects

  • Difficulty reading small text

  • Frequent vision prescription changes

These issues are usually caused by presbyopia, the natural eye changes that happen sometime after age 40. It causes a form of farsightedness, so closer objects become harder to focus on.

Presbyopia's effects can be seen on the road, where it can get harder to see dashboards, GPS screens, road signs and information boards as clearly as you're used to.

These visual changes are usually treated with reading or multifocal glasses, which include progressive lenses, but driving may require unique solutions. An eye doctor will be able to help you find the best treatment.

Cataracts

When the eye's natural lens — a clear, oblong structure behind your pupil — starts to cloud, it's called a cataract.

Most cataracts start to develop sometime after age 40, but don't significantly affect your vision until much later. About 1 in 4 people aged 65 to 69 have cataracts, and roughly 1 in 2 people aged 75 to 79 have them.

As time goes on, cataracts can affect driving in several ways:

  • Blurry vision

  • Cloudy vision

  • Sensitivity to light

  • More intense glare

  • Starburst and halo effects around lights

  • Worsening night vision

  • Double vision

Cataracts are usually treatable but continue to be a leading cause of blindness, largely due to a lack of access to proper eye care. Globally, nearly 100 million people have moderate to severe vision impairment due to uncorrected cataracts.

Cataracts can have a significant impact on road safety as they progress. Drivers with uncorrected cataracts are 2.5 times more likely to get into an accident.

Glasses can help treat blurry vision during the early stages of cataracts, but surgery is the only way to correct cloudy vision and other symptoms that eventually become more noticeable. Thankfully, modern cataract surgery is extremely safe and effective.

Other factors

Some vision changes are simply caused by age, instead of any one refractive error or condition. Like presbyopia and cataracts, each can present unique challenges on the road.

As people get older, they may notice changes to their:

  • Night vision – When the eye's lens changes as people age, less light reaches the retina in the back of the eye. This mostly affects people over age 50.

  • Field of vision – Peripheral vision tends to decrease between 1 and 3 degrees every decade of life. By your 70s or 80s, your field of vision may be 20 to 30 degrees less than it used to be.

  • Ability to quickly adapt to different light – Aging slows the eyes’ ability to adapt to sudden changes in light conditions. This might be noticeable when scattered clouds cause sunlight to repeatedly brighten and dim.

  • Eye dryness – Eyes produce fewer tears as people age, leading to dry and uncomfortable eyes more often.

You may not notice some of these problems right away, but they are all very common. An eye doctor can help you treat them, giving you a clearer and safer driving experience.

Routine eye exams can also be used to detect eye disease in its earliest stages, since the risk of developing conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy goes up as people age.

How eyewear can improve driving safety

Your vision is adapting to your surroundings every second you're behind the wheel. When something hinders your eyesight, it can be distracting and even dangerous.

Different types of eyewear — both prescription and nonprescription — can keep your vision functioning as well as possible.

Prescription glasses or contacts

When objects start to look blurry either inside or outside of the vehicle, common refractive errors are usually to blame. Most of them can be fixed with a pair of prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses or contact lenses.

To get a pair of prescription lenses, you need to schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor. Your new glasses and contacts will use the custom measurements provided by your doctor to "fix" the way light enters your eyes.

The goal of these lenses is to bring your eyesight sharpness as close to the normal level as possible.

You may be able to benefit from an eye exam even if your vision doesn't seem blurry. People are sometimes unaware of small problems with their eyesight, only to be amazed by how clear their vision is after they get their prescription lenses.

Sunglasses

It's important to keep a pair of sunglasses in your vehicle so you’re prepared when it's sunny, or when clouds are thin or scattered.

Even cheap sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays can improve your visual comfort on the road, but it's rarely a bad idea to invest in higher quality lenses if you can afford to.

Features like polarization can help you improve your road vision even more, especially when glare is a factor. Polarized lenses block part of reflected light, improving the clarity of wet roads and contrasting colors in your surroundings.

But keep in mind that polarization can make digital screens (like the ones in many modern vehicles) harder to see.

Tinted glasses can sometimes be marketed as daytime driving glasses. While the tint may help your vision in some areas, it can also reduce contrast and change the color of traffic signals and street signs.

Like Dr. Dunaief recommended earlier, gray- or brown-tinted lenses are your best options.

Anti-reflective coating

Anti-reflective coating is a thin layer applied to the outside of eyeglass or sunglass lenses. They don't reduce reflections from the outside world, they limit the reflections within the lenses themselves.

You might hear anti-reflective coating called "anti-glare" or just "AR" coating. Lenses with this coating can:

  • Improve your vision while driving at night

  • Reduce glare and halos around lights

  • Make your glasses look clear from the outside

Fewer reflections means that more of the light from your surroundings enters your eyes. When your eyes receive more light at night, the result is sharper vision overall.

It's important to note that glasses with anti-reflective coating is only meant as an improvement over normal, uncoated lenses. 

Progressive or multifocal lenses

Multifocal lenses (bifocals, trifocals and progressives) have more than one vision correction strength in each lens. This helps people with presbyopia see objects at different distances clearly without having to switch to another pair of glasses.

Progressive lenses offer the same benefits without any visible lines separating the different parts of each lens. To the outside viewer, they look like regular, single-vision lenses.

Multifocal lenses can be very helpful while you're driving, since they bring a nearby dashboard or GPS into clear view, in addition to street signs and information boards that are far away.

Before you drive with these glasses, make sure you've had a chance to fully adjust to them. Bifocals and trifocals can take time to get used to, and progressive lenses can take several weeks, in some cases.

Photochromic lenses

Photochromic lenses darken automatically in sunlight. They can be very useful in many areas of everyday life, but driving is generally not their strong suit.

This is because most photochromic lenses only react to ultraviolet (UV) rays, invisible radiation that differs from the light you see with your eyes. Windshields block almost all UV rays, so the lenses don’t transition from clear to dark.

However, special lenses that react to UV and visible light are now available. These specific lenses will darken in the car on a sunny day.

Transitions XTRActive lenses, for example, respond to both UV and visible light. Transitions Drivewear lenses provide the same benefit and add a polarized coating to each lens.

Night driving glasses

Night driving glasses are usually non-prescription glasses that reduce the amount of light that enters your eyes. They claim to do this by adding a yellow tint, polarized coating or both.

At best, they may not change your vision at all. At worst, they could be dangerous.

Night driving glasses can block too much light during a time when light is already scarce. For the best vision at night, steer clear of tinted or polarized lenses. Consider glasses with anti-reflective coating to improve the way light reflects in each lens.

And make sure your glasses and car windshield are spotless before you start the engine — you might be surprised how much of a difference it makes.

The life-threatening dangers of distractions

When you're driving, the worst thing you can do for your vision is to not use it at all. When you get distracted and look away from the road — even for a moment — the consequences can be devastating.

Drivers who use their cell phones while driving are about four times more likely to get into a crash. For the distracted driver, their passengers, other drivers and passengers, and even pedestrians, a quick distraction can lead to serious injury or death.

Using your cell phone while driving greatly reduces the amount of time you have to react to:

  • Other vehicles

  • Pedestrians

  • Traffic signals

  • Signs and information boards

  • Construction areas

  • Animals

  • Other road hazards

Using your phone also makes it harder to stay in your lane and leave enough space between your car and the one in front of you.

In the United States alone, 3,142 people died in 2019 in accidents involving at least one distracted driver — a 10% increase from the year before.

Distracted driving is now synonymous with smartphones, but they aren't the only things that can steal your attention.

Other passengers, like friends, family members or pets, can be distracting enough to cause an accident. Even external factors, like trying to read the text on a billboard, can take your eyes off the road for several seconds.

Ways to improve road vision

One of the easiest ways you can improve your eyesight is to get a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor, especially if you haven't had one for a year or two.

Small changes to your vision can be hard to notice. You might find yourself getting more headaches or squinting when you read before you notice blurry vision.

An eye doctor, however, has several tools that help determine exactly how strong your vision is, and what needs to be done to make it better.

You can also:

  • Leave more space in front of your car. Many drivers don't realize they drive too close to the vehicle in front of them. The three-second rule is a handy way to increase this distance: Leave three seconds of traveling time between your car and the one in front of you. Not only does this give you enough time to react if you need to, it can also give you a wider view of the road.

  • Take regular driving breaks. Your eyes can always benefit from a break, even if you're only driving for an hour or two. Proactively plan breaks during your trip to avoid eye fatigue (and drowsiness) before it happens.

  • Reduce stress. Cutting back on stress in the modern world can be easier said than done, but it's important to try. Your vision, like other systems in your body, is easily affected by stress.

  • Work on your sleep habits. Poor sleep habits can work their way into every corner of your life, vision included. Depending on their age, adults should aim for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Additionally, it is very dangerous to drive if you are sleepy.

  • Eat a healthy diet. A diet filled with healthy, eye-friendly foods and nutrients can impact different areas of your eyes and eyesight — and the rest of your body too. You might not notice any changes right away, but you're doing a little favor for your vision with every bite.

SEE RELATED: Infographic: Tips to improve your vision and road safety

A key to safe driving

Vision's role in safe driving is indisputable — without it, you wouldn't be able to drive at all.

Internationally, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.25 million people die every year due to road crashes, and uncorrected eyesight is one of the leading risk factors for accidents.

For many, clear vision is just an eye exam and a pair of prescription lenses away. And the benefits aren't limited to the road.

Most people rely on their eyes nearly every waking hour of every day. Taking care of your vision doesn't just make you a better, safer driver — it changes the way you see the world.

The social and economic impact of poor vision. Vision Impact Institute. May 2012.

Vision and driving. Vision Research. November 2010.

The most dangerous time to drive. National Safety Council. Accessed July 2021.

Light and dark adaptation. Webvision: The Organization of the Retina and Visual System. Updated July 2007.

Weather and accidents: Rain & fog. Green, Marc. Accessed July 2021.

Steady-state and dynamic response properties of the Mandelbaum effect. Adams, Craig W. March 2003.

Thermodynamics: Albedo. National Snow & Ice Data Center. Updated April 2020.

Vision tips for driving in the winter. BrightFocus Foundation. Updated November 2020.

Blindness and vision impairment fact sheet. World Health Organization. Updated February 2021.

Astigmatism. Temple Health. Accessed July 2021.

Preventing eye fatigue on long road trips. Baylor College of Medicine. July 2021.

Older drivers. European Road Safety Observatory. Accessed July 2021.

Drivers In fatal motor vehicle crashes by age, 2018. U.S. Department of Transportation. 2018.

Cataract tables. National Eye Institute. Updated February 2020.

Night driving: effects of glare from vehicle headlights on motion perception. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics. November 1995.

Visual performance and patient preference: a comparison of anti-reflection coated and uncoated spectacle lenses. Journal of the American Optometric Association. June 1997.

Night driving glasses may hurt, not help. American Academy of Ophthalmology. January 2018.

Comparison of pedestrian detection with and without yellow-lens glasses during simulated night driving with and without headlight glare. JAMA Ophthalmology. August 2019.

Road traffic injuries. World Health Organization. June 2021.

Overview of motor vehicle crashes in 2019. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. December 2020.

How much sleep do I need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed July 2021.

Global status report on road safety, 2015. World Health Organization. September 2015.

Road traffic injury prevention training manual. World Health Organization. 2006.

Find Eye Doctor

Schedule an exam

Find Eye Doctor