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Is night time driving becoming more difficult?

At this time of year millions of drivers feel uneasy when driving when it’s dark or when visibility is poor. This is caused by poorer night vision when light levels are much lower and dealing with the glare of modern Xenon or LED headlights. When winter roads are wet or icy there is also more distracting glare from reflected light.

  As we get older our eyes need more light to give us sharp vision. At 40 we need twice as much light as a 20-year-old and at 60 years, three time as much. Resistance to glare decreases by half every 12 years. Because our pupils get bigger I the dark, the light beams are reflected differently and can create a blurry image. As a result, as we get older it’s more important to look after our eyesight and drive with the right prescription glasses to be safe on the roads and feel comfortable at the wheel.

Thankfully, there are new modern lenses available that make driving easier. These can significantly reduce the glare from headlights or reflections from wet roads and produce a high contrast, razor-sharp image. If your right and left eyes give slightly different vision, the right glasses with different prescriptions for the right and left eyes can improve 3D spatial vision, especially important for overtaking manoeuvres or parking a car.  

The right diet is also important as we get older. The cells of the retina at the back of eye that detect light contain a biological pigment called rhodopsin. This pigment changes when exposed to light (a process called photobleaching) which causes the cells to send signals to the brain that light has been detected. The pigment then regenerates but takes longer to recover at night or after exposure to bright light such as car headlights. Eating a diet with the right antioxidants such as lutein, zeaxanthin, anthocyanins and vitamin A helps the eyes stay healthy. Top foods recommended by optometrists include curly kale, carrots, red peppers, apricots, blackcurrants, blueberries and deep green or purple coloured vegetables as well as oily fish for omega 3’s. There are also specialist dietary supplements available for to maintain good eye health as we get older.

If you’d like advice about safer and more comfortable night time driving, please ask the friendly opticians at Monnow Eyecare during your regular eye health check or make a separate appointment. You can call us on 01600 715 299, book online here or pop into the practice on Cinderhill Street, Monmouth.  

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