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Best Sunglasses for Driving

Updated on February 26, 2013

Can I use any sunglasses for driving?

While most of us probably reach for sunglasses in the summer, driving in the autumn and winter is the time when driving sunglasses become more than a comfort, they are an essential safety aid reducing glare caused by low sun, which can be made worse by wet roads or snow.

Being blinded by glare can endanger yourself or other road users, choosing the best sunglasses for driving can reduce the risk substantially.

However, choosing the best sunglasses is not just a case of reaching for your favourite fashionable shades; there are a number of things that should be taken into account including Tint Density, Clarity and Comfort, whether you want anti glare sunglasses or polarized driving glasses. Cost may also be a factor as these glasses may well be left in your car so that they are always ready for when the conditions require them.

Serengeti Lamone Drivers Sunglasses - Image Courtesy of Amazon

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Sunglass Lens Categories

Not all manufactures publish the category of their sunglasses, and some photocromatic ones bridge categories, but as a guide sunglasses for driving should come from either category 2 or 3.

  • Category 0 allows 80 - 100% light transmission - useful for eye protection or fashion, but doesn't really reduce the glare from bright sunlight.
  • Category 1 allows 43 - 80% light transmission - again useful for eye protection or fashion with limited glare reduction
  • Category 2 allows 18 - 43% light transmission - probably the most versatile for average sunny weather and driving.
  • Category 3 allows 8 - 18% light transmission, goof for bright sunlight, driving and general purpose wear.
  • Category 4 allows 3 - 8% light transmission - only for very bright conditions, not to be worn while driving or operating machinery.

Serengeti Drivers Sunglasses

Serengeti make a huge range of sunglasses, some are specifically designed for drivers.

Did you know?

Polycarbonate, which is used to make most sunglasses lenses, inherently filters most harmful UV light? This is true whether you buy $3 or $300 glasses!

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet

Are Polarized Driving Glasses a good idea?

Polarized sunglasses for driving are very popular, but whether they are the best sunglasses for driving is something that needs some careful consideration.

All objects that we can see reflect light, that is how we can see them, however, some objects are particularly good a reflecting light, such as mirrors or polished surfaces. When light is reflected from most objects it has a relatively even intensity due to the fact the light is scattered in all directions, however, if light is reflected from a shiny, polished, or wet surface, the intensity is much higher as much more of the light is reflected and in particular it is reflected in a much less scattered/more direct way, the concentration of the light reflected from objects travels in a more horizontal direction, which is called Horizontal Polarization.

The effect of this is seen as glare, which can be very distracting and potentially dangerous when driving.

So, on the face of it Polarized Driving Glasses, which have a filter that blocks some of this horizontal light would be a good thing, right?

Well it depends! Some useful things emit horizontal light, LCD screens used on some Satelitte Navigation devices, dashboards, even watches and clocks can be very hard to read when wearing polarized sunglasses.

There are also reports of problems when using polarized sunglasses and wearing a motorcycle helmet and visor, especially if then looking through a plastic windshield, it appears that the way the light is refracted when passing through the layers of plastic is itself polarized and strange patterns become visible, which can be off putting or distracting.

Tint Density

How dark is too dark?

All good quality sunglasses will have the filter category on the label or even on the frame; indeed this is a legal requirement in some countries.

Any lens that doesn't transmit at least 75% of the available light is not suitable for night driving.

Any lens that transmits less than 8% is too dark even for day time driving.

The recommended light transmission level range for driving is between 18 & 43%, with 8-18 only really suitable on very bright days, but as a driver you must always take responsibility for ensuring that your visibility is not impaired, whatever it says on the label.

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    • ViolaSuSi profile image

      ViolaSuSi 5 years ago

      Good to know. Interesting and helpful information. Thank you.

    • RosaMorelli profile image

      RosaMorelli 5 years ago

      Very useful info - my housemate is an absolutely terrible driver in the sun - he's really light sensitive, so for safety I'm looking for a good pair of sunglasses for him. Glad I read this Lens, it's given me quite a few pointers :)