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Night Driving Challenges

By Suzanne Hebert

Night driving is a struggle at any age. Add a rainy night and the newer bluish xenon headlights and anyone, even the most experienced driver, would have difficulty. Older drivers have additional issues that make night driving even more stressful. As we age, our pupils gradually lose their ability to dilate widely. A 50-year-old needs twice as much light to see as well as a 30-year-old. Cataracts or clouding of the eye's natural lens, begin in most people around age 50. Even small changes in the lens of the eye can cause light to scatter resulting in glare. Talk to your older parent or loved one about the challenges of night driving. Ask them to take these measures to reduce the risks:

  • Have your eyeglass prescription updated frequently by your eye doctor. As cataracts form, eyeglass prescriptions can change frequently and in large increments. It could take years before cataracts need removal so keeping up with prescription changes is crucial. Add an anti-reflective coating to your eyeglass lenses. This is a clear coating, but it can help with glare.
  • Have your headlights checked. If the bulbs aren't burning as brightly as they should or if they are not aimed properly, this is a big disadvantage for night driving.
  • Make sure all surfaces are clean inside and out. Clean your head lights. Even a thin layer of grime can reduce their brightness. Clean your windshield inside and out. Any smudges or clouding can cause major glare from oncoming headlights. The same is true for your eyeglasses. Make sure to clean them with water and mild soap everyday.
  • Avoid driving at dusk. This is the hardest time of day to drive. Older eyes have trouble keeping up with the constantly changing light levels.
  • Bright oncoming headlights can be disorienting. Use the right white line of the road as a guide. Keep your eyes to the right as the car passes.

If your parents still have serious trouble driving at night, it may be time for them to give up driving. See restricted license.

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