Specsavers logo
November 20, 2023

Specsavers Road Safety Awareness Week

Over a quarter of Brits could experience hazards on the road due to common eye condition

If you see blurry or wavy beams on lights, you could be one of the 27% of people in the UK living with a common eye condition known as astigmatismi.

This Road Safety Awareness Week (19-25th November), experts at Specsavers reveal the signs and symptoms that may indicate astigmatism and share top tips on how to drive safely with this condition.

Driving at night can be difficult enough for those with 20:20 vision — but for people with astigmatism, it is even more challenging. This comes as a recent review of multiple studies found that two-thirds (66%) of those with astigmatism experience night-time driving difficulties. With the days now getting increasingly shorter, it is more important than ever to be aware of any changes to your sight and to recognise the symptoms associated with astigmatism.

This condition means the cornea (the front layer of your eye) or lens (the part of the eye responsible for focus) is shaped more like the pointed end of a rugby ball rather than a spherical football. The result of this can cause blurred or unfocussed vision making everyday tasks difficult or even dangerous.

Clinical services director at Specsavers Giles Edmonds, adds: ‘Astigmatism can present a range of symptoms including headaches, regularly having to squint to see clearly, eye strain or tiredness when focusing on prolonged tasks. If you have astigmatism, or think you might, it is important to get an up-to-date eye test every two years and always wear your glasses or contacts when driving.’

In low-light conditions, blurry vision associated with astigmatism can become worse. That’s because when the lighting dims, your pupil dilates to let in more light. The more light that is let in, the more light that is scattered. This scattered light causes unfocused vision, as well as halos around bright lights and even night blindness.

Bright headlights from oncoming and rear traffic can become particularly distorted, creating ‘lines’ of light around the headlight. Light reflections from cars and streetlamps can also cause drivers with astigmatism to squint, making it more difficult to concentrate on the road ahead.

Understanding the risks associated with driving with an eye condition, the DVLA has issued a warning that failure to meet the minimum eye standards could result in being charged with a £1,000 fine and three penalty points, which is why it is so important to be aware if you have this condition.

In light of Road Safety Awareness Week, Specsavers has shared four top tips to drive safely with astigmatism.

1. Make sure you get your eyes tested at least once every two years so your prescription is up to date, and you can see clearly when driving.

2. Anti-reflection treatments like UltraClear SuperClean can help reduce reflections which can be distracting when driving at night.

3. For varifocal wearers the SuperDrive lens is tailored for driving, featuring a 180-degree distance vision area and a wide upper intermediate area for road and wing mirror use, with minimum head movement.

4. It can be beneficial to wear contact lenses to correct astigmatism while driving as this eliminates extra light reflection. Mild astigmatism can be corrected by an ordinary gas-permeable lens, while others with higher amounts of astigmatism might benefit from special 'toric' soft lenses to fit your eye shape.