Brighter Headlights a Problem for Older Drivers

Diminishing acuity in vision and hearing are two of the most common and frustrating side effects of aging and many older adults find that even with prescription lenses, driving at night can be challenging.  And you are not imagining it, newer LED headlights on vehicles are brighter than their predecessors and it’s causing trouble for drivers, especially older adults whose eyes may take longer to recover from bright glare or may be developing the symptoms of cataracts. Those who suffered a concussion from a fall or head injury from a motor vehicle collision may also find themselves affected by LED lights.

According to a recent Fox News report, drivers of smaller vehicles are especially vulnerable to having the bright lights of a truck or other higher-riding vehicle shine directly in their eyes.   And although there are federal regulations limiting the brightness of headlights, they are difficult to enforce.  

Because the human eye is not adapted for night vision, drivers can lose as much as 70 percent of visual acuity after dark; contrast is diminished and many drivers experience a loss of depth perception.  With age, the lens of the eye becomes more opaque, allowing even less light to enter the eye. 

But older drivers can do a few simple things to help them stay safer on the roads at night.  Firstly, give yourself a larger space between your car and other vehicles on the road, allowing for more time to react if someone brakes or swerves suddenly.  Secondly, it’s important to maintain your own headlights and their lenses.  Headlights can be upgraded from standard halogen bulbs to improve nighttime visibility and a headlight restoration kit can help restore clouding on headlights and tail lights of older vehicles.  Finally, be sure to get regular annual eye exams to ensure you are wearing the proper prescription and are being screened for any developing eye problems. 

Always keep your windows and glasses clean to help prevent some of the glare during nighttime driving.  A yellow tinted lens can also be worn by older adults to reduce glare during night driving. Learn more about keeping older drivers safe on the roads by following this link to the United States Department of Transportation website.