A British journalist writing for the Daily Express posted an article in late July warning drivers of potential fines of up to £2,500 for wearing the wrong sunglasses while driving. The headline was enough to get this writer’s attention. Unfortunately, what followed in the actual text of the piece was less impressive than the headline itself.
A detailed reading of the article reveals that yet another journalist has got it wrong. The Express piece conflates UV protection with sun glare. The two have absolutely nothing to do with one another. As such, leading people to believe that they can be safer drivers by wearing sunglasses with UV protection is both disingenuous and potentially dangerous.
What Rule 237 Says
The journalist in question cited Rule 237 of The Highway Code published by the UK’s Department for Transport. That rule states as follows, in relation to driving under sunny conditions:
“If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.”
Common sense dictates that driving in a blinding sun can be as dangerous as distracted driving. However, being “dazzled by bright sunlight” is a completely separate issue from what UV rays do to the eyes. Ultraviolet rays cannot be seen by the naked eye, which is why they have nothing to do with the brightness or intensity of visible sunlight.
All of this is to point out the fact that the Express writer’s focus on UV protection is to miss the point entirely. If you are a UK driver and do not want to be dazzled by sunlight, you need a pair of sunglasses with a dark tint. Polarized lenses would help as well.
Visible Light Is What Dazzles
A driver being dazzled by bright sunlight is suffering from the effects of visible light. Remember, UV light is invisible. To protect oneself against visible light, you need a dark tint that blocks as much visible light as possible without impairing your vision significantly.
Black, gray, and mirrored lenses are the best choice for blocking visible light, explains Salt Lake City’s Olympic Eyewear. Olympic designs and sells more than two dozen brands of fashion sunglasses across the country. They know a thing or two about visible sunlight and UV rays.
Olympic also says the polarized lenses can cut down on sun glare. These are particularly helpful when driving because they cut down on the glare from road surfaces and car hoods. Polarized lenses help by filtering out light either horizontally or vertically, thus making it easier for you to see.
More About UV Protection
Let us wrap up this post by discussing UV protection and why it has nothing to do with how well you can see. Ultraviolet rays are rays of light at wavelengths from 10 nm to 400 nm. Excessive exposure to UV rays can cause problems ranging from photo keratitis to cancer. That is why experts recommend wearing only sunglasses with built-in UV protection.
Once again, the naked eye does not see UV rays. It is entirely possible for Olympic Eyewear to make glasses with UV protection despite lenses being transparent. The embedded film that provides UV protection is transparent as well. Thus, UV protection has nothing to do with tint or polarization.
If you worry about clearly seeing the road when you drive, by all means get a pair of sunglasses. And by all means make sure those sunglasses are rated UV 400. Just remember that UV rating has nothing to do with how clearly you will see. The best sunglasses for seeing clearly in sunny conditions are polarized and have darkly tinted lenses.