Supplier insight

Tailored lenses for driving

With car dashboards looking increasingly space-age, and the introduction of bright LED headlights and street lamps, the need for optimised vision when driving is greater than ever. OT  found out more

car at night

Driving lenses are supporting patients with optimised performance tailored to modern road conditions.

Andy Sanders, professional services director for Hoya, shared: “The driving environment has changed exponentially over a few years, with car dashboards progressively looking increasingly like the Starship Enterprise, rather than the analogue type many of us grew up with.”

This is combined with car headlights that utilise super-bright LEDs or Bi-Xenon technology, 39 million licensed vehicles on the roads, an increase in cycle traffic and a rising average age of vehicle drivers.

“It’s no wonder that drivers are looking for an optimum driving solution,” Sanders said.

Research by the RAC has revealed that nearly 90% of drivers feel some or most headlights are too bright, causing dazzle, and that this is a worsening problem.

Paul Hopkins and Dr Navneet Gupta, professional services managers for Zeiss, noted that, in addition to the use of LED headlights, there has been an increased installation of LED street lighting, which is brighter than traditional lighting methods and has a spectral transmission towards the blue end of the visible light spectrum. “This can increase glare and dazzle, and reduce contrast,” they shared.

“Drivers want to feel safe on today’s ever-busier roads,” the professional services managers emphasised, adding that eye care professionals (ECPs) are in a “prime position” to offer advice and lens solutions.

What patients look for

Mark Robertson, head of manufacturing for the independent lens manufacturer, Caledonian Optical, suggested that occupational lenses have increased in popularity.

This is partly attributed to the fact many people have been working from home on digital devices, and so are open to solutions that suit specific tasks.

With pandemic restrictions lifted, Robertson said: “We’re starting to see a big increase in driving lenses themselves.”

Despite this, patients might not know solutions as tailored as driving lenses are available. Robertson advised asking lifestyle-related questions to determine whether the lenses could be suitable, such as: ‘How often are you driving? Do you drive more during the day, or at night? And do you find that sunlight or glare is a problem?’

Sanders agreed that, “ECPs should consider the full driving environment and under what circumstances the glasses are to be worn.”

For example, a person who drives for a living may desire a lens tailored more for driving, whereas a patient who has a short commute to work may require a more blended solution.

“Patients are looking for comfort and clarity in vision across the whole lens so that with rapid focusing and refocusing associated with driving tasks, they remain fully aware of their surroundings whilst benefiting from a reduction in disabling glare, both at night, in poor weather conditions and during the day,” he explained.

ECPs should consider the full driving environment and under what circumstances the glasses are to be worn

Andy Sanders, professional services director for Hoya

Optimising vision

Sanders shared that lenses made for the driving environment typically feature elements like atoric surfaces, to optimise peripheral vision whilst supporting binocular vision, “crucial for stereopsis and reaction times.”

Features to reduce blue light scatter also offer more comfortable vision, he shared, especially when driving in poor weather or at night, while anti-reflection coatings can support low light vision.

“Ultimately, the combination of these features can potentially enhance reaction times,” he said, citing research exploring binocular vision reaction time and comparing visual performance and optical properties of filters.

Hoya offers a range of EnRoute lens designs to suit different drivers. Features of the lens include a glare filter to reduce reflections and glare from oncoming traffic, and support for clear vision in the far distance. Progressive lenses incorporate Integrated Double Surface Design for wider visual fields and switching between distances, and Balanced View Control for a stable image perception.

The company also provides EnRoute Pro, an option ideal for professional drivers, with a design that is further optimised for the viewing distance of the dashboard and mirrors and an additional contrast-enhancing filter.

Comfort in all conditions

The unique features of driving lenses can be particularly beneficial for drivers in the winter months, which bring additional challenges of low levels of illumination and poor weather conditions which can reduce visibility, contrast sensitivity and visual acuity, Zeiss shared.

The company introduced its Zeiss DriveSafe lenses as everyday lenses designed with the challenges of modern-day driving in mind - aiming to enhance vision in low light conditions and reduce perceived glare.

Both the single vision and progressive lens options are designed with freeform technology. While mathematical models and algorithms further optimise the lenses to account for pupil size, Gupta and Hopkin said, with Zeiss Luminance Design Technology aiming to minimise the effects of aberrations.

The Zeiss DriveSafe Progressive Lenses are also designed to maximise the distance and intermediate fields of vision to assist with changing gaze between road, dashboard and mirrors.

In addition, Hopkins and Gupta shared that the Zeiss DuraVision DriveSafe coating can block out shorter wavelengths of light that are responsible for the effects of glare from LED lights.

I think it is a great opportunity for the ECPs to offer a second pair of glasses or talk more about these task-specific lenses

Mark Robertson, head of manufacturing for Caledonian Optical

Greater visual acuity

Caledonian Optical offers a range of materials for lenses, including Drivewear Transitions designed for the on-road environment. Combined polarised and photochromic technology aims to provide “the best of both worlds” in reducing glare and adjusting the tint of the lenses to suit each driving condition.

The company also worked with IOT to introduce its Digital Ray-Path 2 technology, which incorporates the wearer’s accommodative capacity into the lens calculation to minimise oblique aberrations. The lens includes a ‘night vision’ zone, which compensates for the difference in refractive error that occurs between day and night, providing greater visual acuity and reducing eye strain.

The varifocal design, meanwhile, has been provided with an extra-wide distance field and intermediate zone, maintaining the lens accuracy to the edge of the lens. Robertson highlighted that this can support drivers gathering information from the dashboard at a quick glance, while concentrating on the road.

Opportunities for practice

Reflecting on the value that activity-specific or occupational lenses can provide, Robertson told OT: “I think it is a great opportunity for the ECPs to offer a second pair of glasses or talk more about these task-specific lenses and say: ‘because you do a lot of driving, there is another pair of lenses specially for that.’ The patient benefits when they are driving, and it increases sales for the practice too.”

Sanders suggested that it makes sense to offer “specialist vocational solutions” to all patients as part of the consultative work required to determine their best visual solution. “More people are realising, particularly after lockdown, that one pair of glasses is no longer enough,” he shared.

By advising patients on these visual issues and solutions, Zeiss’ Hopkins and Gupta suggested that eye care professionals can help drivers and pedestrians to feel safer on the road.

RAC research has found that 22% of drivers wear lenses that reduce glare for driving, the professional services managers pointed out, adding: “With so many options now available from different manufacturers, it is important that ECPs keep up to date, make clinically relevant lens recommendations, and satisfy both a market need and a business opportunity.”

“It is important however, to manage patient expectations and be clear that no solution will eliminate dazzling glare effects for drivers completely,” they added.