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Updated: Feb 28, 2022


By Vasilis Comblas

Everyone in Australia has a pair of sunglasses – but how many of us are wearing the right pair of sunglasses while driving?

The 5 very common mistakes people make when purchasing their next pair of driving sunglasses are:

1. They’re Not Polarised

Glare causes thousands of accidents each year (9,000 in the USA and 3,000 in the UK - can’t find exact figures for Australia but it states ‘thousands’!). Wearing polarised sunglasses has been proven to greatly reduce or eliminate glare and in turn alleviates accidents caused by sun glare. Polarised glasses are specially designed not only to reduce glare but enhances vision in foggy conditions and reduces reflection caused by wet surfaces - it also stops you squinting which leads to less wrinkles – so wearing polarised sunnies is a win-win all round.

NOTE: Unfortunately, for those of you who have a vehicle with Head-Up Display (optimised navigation instructions that shows up on your car windshield), having polarised sunglasses stops you viewing the digital images projected onto your car’s windshield.

1. They’re Too Designer!

With designer sunnies becoming more affordable, designs come in all shapes and sizes. When choosing a pair of driving sunglasses take into consideration how thick the arms and frames are - as peripheral vision (our ability to see out of the corner of our eyes) can be blocked by sunglasses with thick arms. Also consider the size and shape of the lens – does it cover your eyes? A number of designer sunglasses have small or irregular lens areas, this can limit sunglass protection and can cause viewing problems.

1. They’re Too Dark

Sunglasses fall into 5 categories based on the percentage of light transmission. The recommended amount of light transmission for driving sunglasses is between 18-43% of light. The categories are listed below – Category 2 is considered the best for ‘normal’ driving.

> Category 4 = 100% to 80% transmittance. These are used in very extreme conditions and are too dark from most multi-sport situations. These types of lenses are often used in safety glasses such as in welding.

> Category 3 = 80% to 43% transmittance. These are dark and unless the conditions are very bright are too dark for most multi-sport situations. These types of lenses can be used in places where there is a lot of light such as in the snow, desert or on water.

> Category 2 = 43% to 18% transmittance. These are medium dark lenses, suitable for multi-sports on bright days. If your eyes are sensitive or you do not want any squinting then these can be suitable for multi-sport situations.

> Category 1 = 18% to 8% transmittance. These are quite light lenses and are suitable for multi-sports on most days and overcast or cloudy days. They are not suitable for driving.

> Category 0 = 8% to 3% transmittance. These are very light lenses and are too light and not really suitable for multi-sport situations.

1. They’re The Wrong Tint

Sunglasses can be fashioned to any colour tint you want, although stylish, if you chose blue, light green or pink tints they are a terrible choice for drivers as these colours distort important colours e.g. traffic lights! Red may be useful on long drives as it sooths the eye, however, the overall best tint for driving is grey as it reduces brightness and glare.

NOTE: Before you choose your tint colour, focus first on UV protection (see point 5) and remember that the darkness of the lens colour does NOT indicate level of UV protection.

1. They’re Not UV Approved

It is important to know that no matter what tint your lens is it doesn’t do anything to stop UV light. Ultraviolet light rays (UV) normally known as UVA, UVB and UVC are forms of radiation that comes from the sun. We don’t need to worry about UVC as it doesn’t penetrate the earth’s atmosphere and while we take care of our climate, they are absorbed completely by the ozone layer. For drivers, the two most harmful ultraviolet rays are UVA and UVB. Both of these can burn your eyes as well as your skin, so when selecting sunglasses choose those with a good UV protection rating.

To provide sufficient protection to your eyes, your sunglasses should:

> Meet the Australian Standard (AS 1067) Category 2 or higher

> EPF rating of 9 or 10

> Block out 99%-100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation

> Screen out 75 to 90% of visible light

> Be perfectly matched in colour and free of distortion and imperfection

> Have lenses that are grey for proper colour recognition

NOTE: You cannot legally sell sunglasses in Australia without a label giving you the UV protection factor. If you work in the resource industry you would be supplied with UV protected sunglasses as part of your PPE.

Finally, if in doubt just release your inner Maverick. Think Top Gun and choose an Aviator style, this sunglass style is always in vogue and is a great driving (or flying or boating) style. The classic aviator sunglasses are stylish as well as comfort to wear. Most of the branded Aviator sunglasses also come with 100% UV protection which safeguards your eyes from harmful sun rays and ensures safe driving (just don’t leave them in the sun or on your dashboard – the metal frames can get very hot!!).

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