NJM Blog

Practical Yet Fashionable: What are the Best Driving Sunglasses?

By Kathleen McGovern
Practical Yet Fashionable: What are the Best Driving Sunglasses?

Think about the last time you had to drive into a blindingly beautiful sunset. While you might have admired the stunning shades of pink, yellow, and orange, it's also likely that you thought, "I could really use a pair of sunglasses right about now!" Driving into direct sunlight is not kind to the eyes, and can also be considered a hazard. When it comes to safe driving, we tend not to consider having protective sunglasses being as important as avoiding distractions like texting. But keeping a pair of sunglasses in your car can help prevent accidents as well as damage to your eyes.

Buying a dedicated pair of sunglasses for your car can be a great financial decision. Especially if you are the type of person who, year after year, buys a new pair of cheap sunglasses for the summer and says, "I'll just lose them anyway!" Carrying those cheap sunglasses can help make your summer activities more enjoyable, while ensuring protection from a permanent pair that won't disappear when you most need them. Spending a little extra cash can go a long way towards protecting yourself and others on the road, as well as being more comfortable behind the wheel.

Style vs. Safety: Which Reigns Supreme?

For everyday wear, stylish sunglasses will always prevail. But what is stylish is not always practical for driving. For women, oversized sunglasses have been on trend for some time now, from the days of Jackie Kennedy to current celebs like the Kardashians. Although men's sunglasses may not have experienced the same style transformation, popular styles might not be the safest option when getting behind the wheel.

Ideally, you'll want a pair of shades that are fashionable, comfortable, and protective. When deciding on frames, choose ones that are not so large that they block your peripheral vision. A style with curved lenses that extend beyond just the front of your face offers protection from the sun’s harmful rays from nearly every angle. Finally, thick frames are often heavy and can hurt your ears and nose after wearing them for an extended period of time. Look for a lightweight and comfortable pair with thinner arms made out of synthetic materials.

Lenses: Polarized, Colored, and Everything in Between

You've more than likely heard about polarized lenses, but may be confused as to what their real purpose is. What do polarized lenses actually do? Essentially, polarized lenses help to eliminate any glare from sunlight, headlights, or other sources of light. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains it like this:

"Polarized lenses have a special chemical applied to them to filter light. The chemical’s molecules are lined up specifically to block some of the light from passing through the lens … On polarized sunglasses, the filter creates horizontal openings for light. This means that only light rays that approach your eyes horizontally can fit through those openings."

Basically, polarization blocks those glares from sunlight reflecting off the roof of a car or other reflective surfaces. However, polarized lenses are not perfect for every situation. If you’re wearing them while operating a device with an LCD screen, the display could be difficult to see.

Other options to consider when buying sunglasses are color, tint, and UV protection.

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First, the color of the lenses can play a significant role in the level of light reception. Typically, grey or brown lenses are best for daytime and sunlight protection. For nighttime, amber-colored lenses can help protect your eyes from oncoming headlights. Although pink, green, or blue lenses look cool, they're certainly not a good option for driving as those colors can distort the colors you see, potentially leading to confusing colors on a stop light.

Second, the level of tint is also an important aspect of your new sunglasses. Lenses are graded from 0 to 4, with 0 being transparent and 4 being completely dark. While 0 may not be useful for protecting your eyes against the sun, glasses graded at 4 are too dark and considered unsafe for driving. A rating between 1 and 3 is usually best for driving and will offer enough protection from sunlight. Additionally, you may find lenses with a gradient tint. These glasses are nice for driving because they offer the darker tint on top, for looking out the windshield, while the bottom is shaded lighter so that you can see the dashboard clearly.

Lastly, UV protection tends to be overlooked in sunglasses. If your eyes are not protected from the sun's harmful rays, then what’s the point? Glasses that shield against both UVA and UVB rays offer the ultimate level of protection. If you are shopping for glasses that will last, most higher end options offer 100% UV protection. Still, you should research all options before purchasing to make sure they have all the features you need.

Best Sunglasses - FOR YOU!

Although sunglasses can help reduce accidents caused by blinding sunlight, that doesn't mean that you need to go out immediately and purchase the most expensive pair of polarized lenses on the market. You should consider personal factors before purchasing driving sunglasses. For example, do you primarily commute after the sun sets or overnight? Then you probably won’t want to put out a significant amount of money towards a pair of sunglasses that block daylight. Instead, you may want to invest in a pair of amber-colored glasses designed for nighttime driving.

If you wear prescription lenses, you might be apprehensive about purchasing sunglasses. Even if your prescription glasses transition into sunglasses in the sunlight, they usually won’t work through a windshield. It might be tempting, but it's dangerous to replace your glasses with non-prescription sunglasses when driving. However, there are many brands that will use your prescription to create sunglasses specifically for you! Additionally, although admittedly not as stylish, you can combine the best of both worlds: purchase sunglasses that fit on top of your prescription glasses. Use your own discretion to decide which option protects your eyes best while staying safe.

What Are the Best Sunglass Lenses for Driving?

In sum, when shopping for the best pair of sunglasses for your car, consider these factors:

  • Size – Oversized sunglasses can obstruct your vision while driving. However, glasses that are too small can leave the sides of your eyes susceptible to sunlight, causing distractions and discomfort.
  • Color – The best sunglass lens colors for daytime driving are brown or grey. Anything too dark will obstruct your vision but anything too transparent won’t do the job.
  • Glare protection – Polarized sunglasses will help eliminate glares from the many objects that reflect light on the road.

Practicing safe driving is more than simply avoiding distractions. Prepared with your protective sunglasses, you can continue on your journey with confidence, no matter where you're going. Be sure to show off any new shades on social media and tag @NJMInsurance in your photos — just don't take a selfie while you’re driving!