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Should Drivers With Vision Problems Have Tinted Car Windows?

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Tinted car windows can help reduce glare when you're driving. Tinting can also help keep the cabin of the car cool, and many drivers prefer the privacy that these solutions can offer too. However, safety campaigners sometimes argue that tinted car windows are dangerous, especially if you suffer from a vision problem. Learn more about this suggestion here, and find out if car window tinting is suitable if you have an issue with your eyesight.

What the law says

In Australia, state regulations apply strict limits on car window tinting products. According to the rules where you live, you cannot normally apply a tinting to most of the windscreen, while tinting applied to the other windows must meet certain regulations. Legal tinting must usually allow a certain amount of visible light transmission (VLT). For example, in New South Wales, any new window tinting must allow at least 35 percent VLT.

Car window tinting is not such an issue during daylight, but an illegally dark tint can make it harder to see safely at night, when it's harder for the driver to spot pedestrians and other road users. Nonetheless, some people believe that the darkest legal tint is still dangerous for drivers with vision problems.

So what are the facts?

Tinted windows and aging drivers

Vision problems become more common in older drivers whose eyesight can deteriorate slowly as part of the natural aging process. As such, it seems reasonable to think that any interference with an older driver's vision could affect his or her sharpness of vision (acuity) and ability to cope with glare.

A 2008 study investigated the impact of tinted windscreens on older drivers. The study compared two types of commercially available windscreen, one with a bluish tint and one with a greenish tint, but both types of glass offered the same VLT. The study tested various responses in a group of fourteen older drivers and seven young people.

In fact, the study showed that the window tint had no effect on either group. The older drivers and the younger drivers performed similarly in terms of acuity and the response to unwanted glare. The study even compared performance while driving at night, with similar results. As such, there's no reason to assume that a legal tint will, in any way, hamper an older driver's performance behind the wheel.

Tinted windows and glaucoma

Experts estimate that one in eight people in Australia suffers with glaucoma, which is the leading cause of blindness globally. Worryingly, many people with the condition don't even know they have it, but the slow destruction and loss of the sufferer's optic nerve can cause serious, permanent vision problems.

Glaucoma can cause various vision problems that can affect drivers. Drivers may suffer with contrast sensitivity, problems with glare and over-sensitivity to light, which could make night-time driving more difficult. However, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), tinted glasses can actually help glaucoma drivers. As such, a legal window tint may actually help cut the glare that can cause issues.

That aside, as the GRF states, the problems that glaucoma can cause may still make it dangerous for people with the condition to drive. In fact, the GRF makes it clear that people with serious glaucoma-related issues may have to consider giving up driving altogether, especially at night.

Myopia and night-time driving

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is another common vision problem that affects many Australians. Even if you don't wear spectacles for this problem during the day, the lack of light at night may mean that you need to wear glasses when driving in the dark. The pupils of the eye become larger at night to make better use of the available light, and this effect can heighten myopic symptoms.

A legal window tint should not worsen any myopic symptoms at night. However, if you wear tinted glasses during the day, you should wear clear glasses at night to maximise light transmission. What's more, it's important to regularly check that your prescription is correct if you notice any problems while driving at night.

Tinted car windows offer several benefits, but some people worry that tinting can worsen vision problems. Make sure your window tinting meets state regulations, and talk to your doctor about any concerns you have with your eyesight before you use a legal tint.