Driving and Sun Glare
Vision Experts and Law Enforcement Agree -
Driving and Sun Glare Can Be a Deadly Mixture
re-printed from "The ARC Network" December 30, 2002
WASHINGTON, Dec. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- As the nation braces for more winter weather, there may be an increase in the number of traffic accidents due to motorists being temporarily blinded by the sun, mainly because of the glare from highly reflective snow and ice. Without adequate protection, sun glare not only endangers drivers' safety, but also creates a vision-health hazard for winter outdoor enthusiasts.
According to lens expert David Rips, problems associated with glare from the sun while driving are largely unrecognized, but likely affect the vast majority of adults. It also appears that as people age, they become more susceptible to glare and require a longer period of time to recover from exposure to glare.
"The danger comes primarily from two different conditions of light from the sun," said Rips, president and chief executive officer of Younger Optics, an international leader in the development of lens technology. "One occurs when driving directly into the bright sunlight, temporary blinding the driver. The other condition comes from reflected light off of another vehicle, the roadway, or any reflective surface."
The glare-induced "blindness" is especially prevalent during the winter months, due to the lower elevation of the sun in the sky and the extremely reflective qualities of snow and ice on the ground. The powerful glare of the winter sun has the potential to damage the eye. Because snow is so reflective, there is a risk of up to 85 percent of the UV rays of the sun being transmitted upward.
"Poor visibility due to sun glare is the suspected cause of many motor vehicle accidents," states Virginia Deputy Sheriff John McAlister. "Drivers should take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of others on the road."
Vision Council of America (VCA) offers the following tips for motorists to help reduce the dangers caused by winter glare:
-- Drive cautiously and leave a proper distance to ensure ample reaction time.
-- Make it a habit to lower visors, to help block some of the reflected light.
-- Avoid using high-gloss vinyl cleansers on dashboards.
-- Keep the car windshield clean and the windshield washer fluid reservoir full.
-- When possible, take an alternate route lined with trees or tall buildings in lieu of one with extreme glare.
-- Turn on headlights to reduce the possible poor visibility of oncoming drivers.
-- Most importantly, wear sunglasses at all times. Even more important is to wear sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce glare, and lenses with UV protection to shield the eyes from damage.
Using 100 percent polarized lenses is the only truly effective way of eliminating glare. Polarized and antireflective lenses are particularly good for protecting the eyes from sun glare in the winter, but are also extremely beneficial year-round. Polarized lenses utilize polarized filtering technology to deflect and diffuse concentrated light waves. The filtering process eliminates 99 percent of the reflected glare.
Polarized lenses also provide excellent protection for the winter outdoor enthusiast by blocking the glare that can cause eyestrain and fatigue.
"A frequent problem for skiers, snowmobilers and others who spend a lot of time in the intense reflective light of snow is 'snow blindness'," according to Susan Taub, M.D. of The Taub Eye Clinic and the Better Vision Institute. "This condition can damage the cornea for up to a week, cause eye pain, extreme sensitivity to light and the sensation of having sand in your eye."
The reflected UV rays are believed to contribute to various eye diseases such as cataracts, macular degeneration and photokeratitis (sunburn of the eyes -- an injury that can take up to a week to heal). One may also experience blurred vision, change in color vision or difficulty seeing at night.
It is crucial to take extra precautions to protect the eyes from its harmful rays. While sunwear has been a popular and fashionable accessory for years, protective eyewear is especially critical now as scientists point out the rapid deterioration of the Earth's ozone layer and subsequent increased amount of harmful UV rays.
Regular comprehensive eye exams help to ensure optimal vision health. Eyecare professionals also can assist in the selection of the appropriate protective and fashionable eyewear in order to suit everyone's lifestyle needs.
For more information on vision health, please visit http://www.checkyearly.com.
The Vision Council of America (VCA) is the largest optical trade association in the world, comprised of corporations whose business is the manufacturing, processing and distribution of eyewear and eye care products or services. With the help of its members and the Better Vision Institute (BVI), VCA's mission is to create awareness of the value of vision care and to grow the eyewear market through education, forums and expositions, industry statistics, data, technical standards and advocacy.
Source: Vision Council of America
Ralph Bouwmeester, P. Eng.
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