A professor of optometry has issued a warning about the dangers to road users posed by sun glare at this time of year.
James Loughman, professor of optometry and vision science at Dublin Institute of Technology, says there is a risk of collisions due to blind spots created by sun glare and the distance perception problems that this creates. He also explained that driving directly against the sun can also block peripheral vision and cause sudden moments of blindness as the sun peeks out from behind surrounding objects.
The professor goes on to explain that middle-aged and older drivers are more sensitive to glare than younger drivers, because their eyes take longer to adjust to changing light levels. People with lighter coloured eyes will be bothered more by glare and vision-correction surgery can also increase sensitivity to glare.
Professor Loughman said: “Individuals who suffer dry eyes often find their symptoms worsen during driving. This has the additional effect of increasing glare as a result of ocular irritation and an irregular tear film.
“Our research also revealed that macular pigment plays a critical role in glare sensitivity. This pigment, which accumulates in the retina, filters the light as it strikes the retina and removes the components that cause glare, in the way that polarised sunglasses work. In essence, this pigment is the eye’s natural protection against glare.”
Professor Loughman goes on to say that diet is an important factor for both tear function and macular pigment protection against glare.
He said: “Our research has shown that dietary supplementation with macular carotenoids in the quantities found in the commercially available supplement, Macushield, can alleviate glare sensitivity, while the use of artificial tears can have similarly beneficial effects on glare disability in the case of persistent dry eye.”
Noel Gibbons, road safety officer for Mayo County Council in Ireland, said: ”We can’t change the position of the sun, or the need to travel at certain times, but there are simple steps you can take to ensure you’re prepared for these conditions.
”Keep your windscreen clean, both inside and out. Dirty windscreens add to the danger when the sun is low.
“If you can’t see, slow down accordingly, keeping an eye on the traffic behind, in case the following vehicle doesn’t see you against the sun.
“Also, beware with these fine evenings (as) there are more pedestrians and cyclists on the road.”