Driving in the dark – what has to be considered!

As 90 % of our sensory information is perceived by vision, a good eyesight is a basic prerequisite for safe driving [1]. Since visual abilities diminish with age and vision deteriorates at dusk and in the dark, it is much more difficult to drive a car, especially at night. However, it is problematic that the own ability to see is often overestimated in old age and drivers are not aware of their deficits. If one sees poorly, distances are easily underestimated, which may increase the risk of accidents.

What makes seeing difficult at night?

With increasing age, visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and twilight vision decrease. In addition, older people generally need more light to see properly. These are the reasons, why it is more difficult to drive a vehicle at night, as important information such as traffic signs or other road users can no longer perceived as easily as in younger years.

Furthermore, the eye becomes more sensitive to glare. After being blinded by headlights, older drivers need longer to regain proper vision and for this reason may drive blindly for several seconds [2].

Eye cataract is a common symptom of aging, is associated with a progressive deterioration in eyesight, and can affect anyone over the age of 70 years. For those concerned, everything appears blurred and like through a fog. However, an operation can help.

Tips for safe driving in the dark

  • To detect changes in time, take an eye test on a regularly basis: from the age of 50, a check-up with an eye specialist should take place every 2 years and from the age of 60 every year.

  • If an eye cataract is diagnosed, surgery may help [3].

  • Avoid wearing glasses with tinted lenses or sunglasses in the dark. If possible, low-reflection glasses should be used at night. Furthermore, glasses with a yellow filter are not recommended [4].

  • Try to plan your trips during daytime.

In case you are driving at night:

  • Give your eyes at least five minutes to adjust to the dark, before driving off.

  • If you have difficulty seeing in the dark, night vision assistance can be helpful.

  • Adjust the dashboard lighting as bright as possible.

  • Avoid looking directly into the headlights of other vehicles.

[1] Hoffmann, H., Wipking, C., Blanke, L., Falkenstein, M. (2013). Experimentelle Untersuchung zur Unterstützung der Entwicklung von Fahrerassistenzsystemen für ältere Kraftfahrer. Bremerhaven: Wirtschaftsverlag NW.

[2] Schlag, B. (2008). Leistungsfähigkeit und Mobilität im Alter. TÜV Media.

[3] Senioren im Straßenverkehr | ADAC

[4] https://www.adac.de/verkehr/verkehrssicherheit/verkehrsmedizin/durchblick-im-strassenverkehr/

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