Driving at night is not easy and unfortunately, it gets harder for all of us as we age. Besides the general complaint that it seems harder to see at night than in the past, many of my patients express a specific concern about glare when driving at night.
I often get asked about wearing amber or “yellow” spectacles over regular spectacles to decrease nighttime glare. In sum, amber or yellow lenses advertised to decrease glare may improve your contrast sensitivity and perception during the daytime or in the early twilight hours, but they should never be worn for driving at night.
These lenses block the sun’s UV light that is invisible to our eyes, but they also block high energy short wavelength light that is in the violet/blue part of our visible spectrum. High-energy short wavelengths scatter more than the longer visible wavelengths, worsening our perception of blur. As a result, these “yellow” spectacle lenses may help with contrast sensitivity (by increasing our perception of “sharpness”) during the day and early twilight hours by blocking the visible wavelengths that scatter the most.
However, these lenses still block part of the light that falls within our visible spectrum and as such, just like decreasing pupil size, they decrease the amount of light reaching the back of our eyes. For this reason, these lenses are not recommended for nighttime driving.
For night driving, it is better to have a high-quality, anti-reflective coating on your spectacles, which is available at all of our Optical Shops. These “clear” lenses block UV light and help to minimize light scatter without decreasing the amount of light reaching our retinae. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates’ opticians will be happy to assist you in getting the best lenses for you.