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Driving at night is never easy — add in a little rain, maybe some old, streaky windshield wipers and other drivers who can’t seem to figure out how to turn off their high-beams — and whether in a relatively well-lit urban area or way out in the pitch-black boonies, challenges abound. One of the big causes of that challenging environment is glare from lights in and out of the car that make it difficult to see just what’s going on, especially at highway speeds.
On the road at night there are some things that can’t be avoided, like oncoming traffic’s headlights, but there are a few tricks to mitigate the effects of glare coming from outside your own vehicle:
- When oncoming cars’ headlights are coming straight on — or worse, when they haven’t turned off their brights — slightly averting your eyes down and to the right toward the solid line marking the shoulder can keep you from being blinded.
- Ever wonder what the little tab on the bottom of your rearview mirror is there for? When you flip the tab it changes the reflective surface inside the mirror so the view is effectively dimmed, making bright lights behind you much less intense. Some modern luxury cars have done away with the tab in favor of electronic mirrors that automatically dim when the sun goes down.
- Break out the Windex and get scrubbing. Dirt, smears and other accumulated gunk on a windshield refract light coming in and cause you to see more glare. And don’t think it’s just on the outside. Smoke, pollen and dust (especially if you drive with your windows down in the summer, can accumulate on the inside of the glass too. If you have the morning paper with you, it can get things looking spotless!
Many sources of glare are beyond the driver’s control, but a surprising amount of glare problems originate on the inside of the car, and are easily improved:
- Dim the instrument panel and dash lights at night to reduce glare and reflection from your speedometer, radio and other displays. While it’s still important to see information on the dials, a simple adjustment of the brightness dimmer can make a big difference, especially in cars with large “infotainment” screens.
- Avoid turning on reading lights or other interior lights that can scatter light around the inside of the car and into your eyes. Some vehicles are equipped with small red interior lights and gauges to help you see in the car without affecting your eyes’ ability to see at night.
- Get your eyes checked regularly. Your windshield might be spotless, your gauge cluster dimmed and your rearview mirror flipped into “night mode,” but if you’ve got an eye condition like cataracts, no vehicle prep tips are going to fix the underlying problem. One of the first signs of cataracts is deteriorating night vision with distortion and halos around lights. An eye care professional can help keep your vision in tip-top shape, recommend corrective lenses or other procedures to make night driving as stress (and glare)-free as possible.