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Driving with Sunglasses: The Safer Way to Travel

By AMA Staff

The golden rule of driving? Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. The latter part of that decree, however, is not always as easy to adhere to as we’d like—especially when the sun is shining brightly through your windshield.

Fortunately, wearing sunglasses while driving is an easy way to avoid uncomfortable eyestrain and increase your safety on the road. LensCrafters, an AMA Rewards partner, offers hundreds of frame options to suit your distinctive style, plus the latest in high-tech prescription lenses to best protect your precious peepers.

Here’s what you should know when it comes to purchasing a new pair of sun-shielding specs.

Wearing sunglasses isn’t just about turning down the brightness setting of the outside world. Your lenses should also protect your eyes against ultraviolet radiation and harsh glare from reflected sunlight.

To the first point, choose lenses that are rated UV400. Technically speaking, this means they block 99 to 100 percent of light rays with wavelengths up to 400 nanometers—including UVA and UVB rays, which, over time, can damage your eyes and lead to cataracts, macular degeneration and skin cancer (to which your eyelids, believe it or not, are quite susceptible).

The importance of keeping your hands, eyes and mind on the road—and not on your mobile or in-car devices

Selecting wraparound lenses (and frames) can offer additional protection by preventing UV rays from hitting your eyes from the side.

But UV protection doesn’t ensure better overall vision. That’s where polarization comes in. Polarized lenses have a filter that helps to improve colour contrast while neutralizing glare—harsh sunlight that’s being reflected by snow, water, road and building surfaces, and even other cars. By sporting polarized lenses while driving, you’ll not only enjoy a clearer view of the road ahead, but you’ll also reduce the discomfort that comes with squinting to see through reflected light.

Different lens tints perform differently depending on the landscape and light conditions. For example, in addition to marking you as an optimist, rose-coloured glasses also help to enhance the greys and whites of snow-covered ski slopes, and make objects more visible against green backgrounds (like the woods you might find yourself hiking through come summer).

The best view for drivers is afforded by traditional brown- or grey-tinted lenses, which are most effective at cutting light intensity—without distorting colours—in moderate to bright conditions.

It’s clear to anyone who’s been outside that the intensity of sunlight differs based on the time of year. Summer, with its oft-cloudless days and blazing sun, may be the season where we most often think to reach for our sunglasses while driving, but winter driving poses its own challenges. Although the lower winter sun is more diffuse—and more often shaded by clouds—that light can still be harsh when reflected by snow- or ice-covered surfaces. Commuters should also consider the fact that you’re more likely to be driving into the rising or setting sun during the weekday rush hours.

How winter can also affect the operation of your car’s technological features

It’s also important to note that UV rays can penetrate clouds, so your eyes are exposed even when it’s overcast.

Of course, it can be tempting simply to grab an inexpensive pair of gas-station sunglasses and hit the road. Those mirrored Ray-Ban knockoffs do block some light, after all. Some cheaper sunglasses may even purport to be polarized or UV-shielded. It’s unlikely that they’re both, however, and that makes a difference in terms of your eyes’ comfort and safety—especially when you’re outdoors (or driving) for longer periods of time. And naturally, off-the-rack glasses don’t help if you require prescription lenses. Optical retailers like LensCrafters now employ digital technology to customize your lenses specifically to your eyes, ensuring you get a sharper, less distorted view of the world.

AMA members save up to 30% on eyewear accessories and more at LensCrafters locations throughout Alberta.