Driving with contact lenses: is it safe?
Contacts are a suitable option when driving and offer added benefits when you are behind the wheel, from reducing nighttime glare to improving your peripheral vision. Here are the reasons why contact lenses are a safe choice when driving. And remember to bring a spare pair of contacts to prepare for any detours on the drive.
Often drivers with 20/40 vision or better can receive a license with no restrictions depending on the state. Anything worse, additional restrictions might be placed on your driving license. This determines when you can drive or what corrective devices are needed for driving. Any restricted license should be indicated by a letter on the front and an explanation on the back. Vision restrictions may include limiting driving from sunrise to sunset only, prohibiting freeway driving, or mandating the use of corrective lenses. For this reason, driving with contact lenses is not only safe but it may be required!
Should I wear my contacts or glasses when driving?
If your license says you must wear corrective lenses for driving, then you must wear them at all times in the car. Any violation of your requirements will have consequences with fines between $200 (Texas) to $500 (Florida), less than the cost of most contact lenses. In other states, driving without your corrective lenses is considered a misdemeanor. This can result in jail time (up to four months in Arizona). Buying an extra pair of contact lenses to keep in the car is significantly less expensive than getting caught without them.
Not only is it illegal to drive without your corrective lenses if required, but it’s also dangerous. There is an average reaction time of 1.5 seconds between your brain registering you need to stop and your foot hitting the brake. When driving at 40mph, for example, your vehicle will travel approximately 80 feet before you begin to slow and need an additional 80 feet to come to a complete stop (160 feet total). At 60mph, it will take more than 300 feet to completely stop.
Compare these calculations to your vision to see why driving with contact lenses is critical. If your visual acuity ratio is 20/50, that means that what other people see clearly from 50 feet away while for you, the distance is 20 feet. This gives you less than half the distance to stop your vehicle. Dr. Joe Wende, Medical Director for ContactsDirect, warns, “driving without your corrective lenses is a major disadvantage and never recommended. Keep an extra pair of contacts in the car at all times. It could mean the difference between getting home safely and getting into an accident.”
Tips to drive with contacts
When it comes to your vision, always be prepared. Here are some of our tips for safe driving with contacts:
- Keep a pair of replacement lenses with you. If you lose a lens or know that your activity may dislodge or wash away a contact, make sure you have extras. It only takes a few clicks to order.
- Keep a bottle of eye drops in your purse if you occasionally experience dry eyes to keep your eyes hydrated and clear. Apply drops only when it is safe—never while driving.
- Change the vents in your car since the heating or air conditioning can cause your lenses to become dry. Avoid opening the window to eye level and deflect the airflow away from your face.
- Keep a replacement pair of glasses on hand. It's always a good idea to keep a spare pair of glasses in your luggage or backup glasses in the car. For instance, you might accidentally rub your eye while traveling and cause your lens to fall out.
- Keep a pair of sunglasses with you. Light conditions might swiftly shift. So, keeping a pair of sunglasses in your glove compartment is always a good idea. Driving while wearing lenses has the added benefit of not requiring an expensive prescription pair of sunglasses. You only need a pair with UV blocking filters to protect your eyes.
Driving at night with contact lenses
Our eyes respond differently to different light levels; in the dark, most people experience more difficult driving circumstances since their eyes work harder to focus. And for individuals who have astigmatism, it can seem even more difficult because, at night, headlights and lamp reflections look excessively hazy and distorted.
Driving in the dark while wearing toric lenses may be safer if you have an astigmatic prescription. They eliminate the extra layer of light refraction that ordinary glasses may introduce. Many drivers who require vision correction (not just those with astigmatism) discover that lenses are a better option when driving after dark since they reduce glare.