Considering the immense consequences glare and UV rays from the sun can have, it is concerning to note how safety is very much taking a backseat for Australian drivers.
According to a survey conducted by the Optometrists Association Australia (OAA), more than 60% of people are risking accidents by driving without sunglasses on glary days. The survey also revealed that 26% of people who require prescription sunglasses are putting themselves and others at risk by opting to wear regular off the shelf sunglasses while driving instead. Men were exposed as the most at risk group with almost 70% driving without any form of sun protection.
It’s easy to see how this research is extremely concerning as safety should be paramount when it comes to driving. Road accidents frequently occur when sun glare through their windscreen, particularly at low angles, causes sunstrike, momentarily dazing and disorienting the driver. It is essential to protect our eyes when driving in bright, glary conditions. Those of us with long distance vision prescriptions in particular, need to be wary of the dangers of driving without corrective lenses.
UV exposure is another concerning issue for Australians. With survey results showing more than half of all Australians not adequately protecting their eyes, it is something that we desperately need to improve on. UV exposure can lead to cataracts (clouding of the lens in the eye), macula degeneration (a leading cause of blindness), pterygiums (a fleshy growth on the eye), skin cancers and a long list of other conditions.
With 60% of Australians believing it is only the midday sun that poses the biggest threat of UV damage, the myth needs to be dispelled. The sun before 10am and after 2pm poses a greater risk due to the angle of the
sun in relation to the eyes. It is vital to protect ourselves from UV by wearing sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen at all times of the day (when the sun is out), even on overcast days and at all times of the year.
Protective lenses that adjust to varying light conditions such as Transitions lenses are a convenient option for people who wear prescription glasses. Other options for driving are also available.
Even though awareness of and concern about eye health issues has grown in recent years, with 30% of Australians now listing eye damage as a side-effect of UV exposure compared to 10% in 2006, it’s still not enough. The rate of growth in awareness is very slow, especially when compared with the emphasis placed on protecting our skin. Both are critical to our overall health and wellbeing and I urge Australians to take action on eye health for themselves as well as their loved ones.
For advice on UV eye protection or information on pterygium and other eye conditions, see an optometrist or visit: optometrists.asn.au/uv