Reducing Headlight Glare While Driving at Night

How To Reduce Headlight Glare-5 Things You Can Do Today

I used to love driving at night.  I loved the feel of the air, the amount of traffic on the road, the store lights.  It brings back memories of a simpler time. Now that I am older, meh, I can take it or leave it.  It’s more stressful now, gone are the carefree days.

Perhaps the most influential factor in all of this is that my eyes are not as good as they used to be.  I don’t wear glasses, and for being forty, my eyesight is not bad. But like most reflexes, they adjust slower than they used to. So driving at night is not as much fun as it used to be. 

One of the most annoying things about driving at night is the headlight glare.  You know what I’m talking about. The headlight halos you get when you have oncoming traffic. It’s very distracting and potentially very dangerous.  So how do you deal with being blinded by oncoming traffic while driving at night?

What can help reduce headlight glare?

There are some very basic steps that you can take to reduce glare and get rid of those headlight halos that plague you while driving at night.

Clean Your Windows and Mirrors

  • Clean your windows and mirrors; both inside and outside.  This seems like an obvious step, but when is the last time you gave your windows a thorough cleaning.  For your vehicle to be ready to deal with an emergency, it needs to be maintained, and cleaning your vehicle is about the most basic of maintenance you can do. 
  •  And I am not just talking about giving it a once over with the gas station squeegee every once in a while.  I am talking getting the sponge out and getting the big chunks of whatever is left on your windshield off.  
  • Think about it. Your windshield gets buffeted with dirt, dust, and debris every time you get on the road; that’s going to leave a mark.  Then going back over it with a microfiber towel to get the finer particles.  Lift up your windshield wipers and clean underneath those too.
  • Also, don’t forget the inside of the window.  Your windshield is a fantastic piece of technology.  Not only is it designed as a structural component of your car; it’s designed not to shatter when in an accident.  I bring this up because all that technology leaves behind a by-product.
  • Have you ever been driving and noticed a haze on the inside of your windows?  Well, that is a chemical plastic by-product from the engineering of the windshield. I didn’t know this, by the way. For me, that haze is one of the biggest causes of headlight halos at night, so I like to take care of it.  
  • Simply wetting down a microfiber cloth or a paper towel with some glass cleaner and wiping the inside down should do the trick.  You will notice an immediate difference not only at night time but during the day as well.
  • While we are discussing the windows, don’t forget the windshield wipers.  Since they are already flipped up from washing the windshield. You will be amazed at the black gook that comes off of the windshield wipers. 
    • Windshield wipers are made of rubber and that rubber degrades over time. The wipers are exposed to the same beating that your windshield is exposed to.  So after a while, little pieces of the wiper will break away, critters will get stuck on the rubber, etc; all of this will lessen the effectiveness of your wipers. 
    • So one day or night, when you turn your wipers on, you’re going to get a nice long streak right across your line of sight. This will enhance the glare that you are already getting from oncoming traffic.  So take a minute to wipe down your windshield wipers, you’ll be glad you did.
  • Finally, the mirrors.  Just like the windows, the mirrors will accumulate dirt and grime.  This is not so much for oncoming traffic. That wouldn’t make any sense.  But glare from behind can be just as distracting as glare from oncoming traffic.  Wipe them down with a cloth that is sprayed with window cleaner. Again it will only take a minute, while you are washing the windows.

In addition to having clean mirrors make sure that the side and rearview mirrors are adjusted properly; this will help to reduce glare and as a bonus limit blind spots.  One last thing, don’t forget to “flip” the rearview mirror. The rearview mirrors in my vehicles automatically adjust to limit glare; so I forgot about this little trick.  But many cars have a little lever or tab in the middle of the mirror that can be, for lack of a better term, “flipped”. If you find yourself being overwhelmed by headlights behind you; flipping this tab on the rearview mirror will reduce the glare from traffic behind you.  

Keep your eyes moving

Have you ever caught yourself in a stare?  The rest of the world seems to fade away and your only focus is the object of your stare.  When you are driving this is bad during the day, it’s called tunnel vision, but it’s especially dangerous at night.  If you get focused on oncoming headlights it’s much more difficult for your eyes to adjust, considerably more so when you are older.  

This is where the term “headlight halo” is most appropriate.  Those headlights are surrounded by darkness, your eyes have dilated to adjust for the darkness, but now you have bright light coming at you.  It’s distracting and dangerous, how do you avoid seeing those headlight halos?

Constantly move your eyes, not focusing on one thing keeps you awake, but also keeps your eyes adjusting.  One trick that I have learned and during the course of my research has been corroborated is looking down and to the right.  If you have oncoming traffic, look at the white line on the side of the road.  This does two things:

  1. It lets you know where the edge of the road is.  Staying left of the white line, at the very least, lets you know that you are not in danger of accidentally driving off the side of the road.
  1. It keeps the oncoming traffic in your peripheral vision.  Now you can safely navigate your car between the edge of the road and the oncoming traffic.

Scanning ahead while you are driving also keeps you aware of upcoming dangers.  It’s dark so you won’t see everything.  But it is a good practice to keep you safe at night.

Take a Break

This may seem like common sense, but sometimes that doesn’t say much.  If you are going to be doing extensive driving at night, pull over and get out of the car.  Most people sleep at night and are not used to being up. It is very easy to become tired and distracted when driving at night. So taking a few minutes, in a safe location, to get out and stretch your legs is not a bad idea.

Pay A Visit to the Optometrist

While this article is geared to inform less experienced drivers, none of us are ever too young to learn something new.   That being said, this is also not meant to be medical advice. Having an annual eye checkup can help ensure that your eyes are in good shape.  The problem with headlight glare is that our eyes are not adjusting fast enough to the constantly changing brightness of nighttime driving. Also, for those of you who wear glasses, an eye care professional can add an anti-glare coating to your glasses.

What is Anti-Glare Coating?

 Also know as, AR (Anti-Reflective) coating; is an application to help reduce the amount of glare that you see.  Honestly, this is a very technical topic and far out of my league. This link takes you to someone who knows what they are talking about: https://www.allaboutvision.com/lenses/anti-reflective.htm.  If I wore glasses and did a ton of nighttime driving, this may be an option that would interest me. 

While we are speaking of glasses a few questions arise.

Can polarized sunglasses be Worn at Night?

NO! Don’t do it!  Polarized sunglasses have no night vision properties that will help you.  They are sunglasses, ‘sun’ being the operative word here. Yes, they will reduce the glare of oncoming traffic. But they will also reduce your vision overall.  That bicyclist or pedestrian that is sharing the road with you; you may not see with sunglasses on. To reiterate, there are no special properties that polarized sunglasses possess to help you with driving at night.  They are phenomenal during the day, but a safety hazard at night…don’t do it! 

Are Glasses with Yellow Lenses Good for Night Driving?

Aside from being a U2 fan, I like the look of the yellow-tinted glasses.  When I first started researching this topic I was tempted to go and buy a pair.  The idea behind glasses with yellow or amber tint is that it is supposed to reduce glare and improve contrast.  The only problem with this is that some light is still required.

So if you are driving at dawn or dusk, these glasses will have some positive impact.  Even if it is foggy or hazy daylight conditions; yellow-tinted glasses may help improve contrast.

However, for driving at night, these glasses do not really help. Like any other tint, they reduce the overall amount of light coming into your eyes.  So for headlight glare at night yellow-tinted glasses may not be your best choice.

Final Thoughts…

Driving at night is dangerous, there is no way around it.  In fact, three times more accidents occur during the night than during the day.  With that being said, you are probably not going to stop driving at night. So, once again, common-sense rules the day or night here. 

Drive slower, your driving is impaired at night.

Keep your eyes moving and the best extent possible be aware of your surroundings.

The only special glasses that will actually help reduce glare are specially coated ones that you have to get from your optometrist. 

There is no evidence suggesting that yellow-tinted glasses will help improve your vision. On the contrary, it will most likely impair your vision more. And definitely, don’t wear your sunglasses at night.

Safe travels.

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