Why Can’t I See at Night When Driving?

by Mar 4, 2024

One of the most common complaints among patients at the eye doctor is that night driving is difficult due to vision. The act of driving at night puts particular strain on the visual system due to its unique environment and surroundings. There are several reasons that driving at night can be extremely difficult due to vision. Conditions such as dry eye and cataracts may worsen nighttime vision, uncorrected refractive error such as astigmatism can cause difficulty with lights in the dark, and  some serious eye problems present first with night vision problems such as retinitis pigmentosa. No matter the exact cause of your difficulty driving at night, you should be seen by an eye doctor to evaluate your overall eye health.


Challenges with Night Driving

Night driving constitutes a unique and often difficult task for the visual system. Several factors converge to heighten the difficulty of driving at night:

1.  Influence of Ocular Health Conditions

Conditions such as dry eye syndrome and cataracts can cast a shadow over the clarity of nighttime vision, exacerbating visual discomfort and hindering the ability to discern objects in low-light conditions. The presence of these ocular conditions underscores the importance of preserving ocular health to optimize night driving experiences.

The presence of a cataract is likely to increase the glare, haloes, and distortion from lights while driving at night.

Dry eyes can cause extra difficulty with glare or reflections off of roads, windows, or other surfaces. This is worse at night and may lead to trouble while driving.

Seeking the appropriate eye care and treatment for these conditions will allow the best vision both during the day and at night.


2. Impact of Refractive Errors

Uncorrected refractive errors, namely astigmatism, can lead to extraordinary difficulties when driving at night. During the day, vision may be completely fine and then at night the combination of less lighting and an increased pupil size can lead to being very symptomatic.

If oncoming headlights appear as starbursts instead of circles of light, there is likely to be some degree of refractive error or astigmatism that is causing the problems seeing at night.

These problems can be corrected using glasses or contact lenses and often are the easiest cause of struggling to see at night to be treated.


3. Warning Signs of Underlying Eye Disorders

While most of the causes of not being able to see while driving at night are minor problems that are exacerbated by the difficult setting, night time vision problems may also be an early sign of a more severe eye condition.

Some serious conditions present with the first symptom of not being able to see in the dark – specifically while driving at night.

Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most notorious conditions for first being noticed due to problems with seeing at night.


When to Have an Eye Exam for Night Driving Problems

If you are noticing problems with seeing to drive at night, you should consult your eye doctor to determine what the cause of your difficulty truly is.

Whether an intervention such as glasses is needed or not, the peace of mind of knowing that the eyes are healthy is still well worth having a comprehensive eye exam.


Our eye doctors at EyeDocs Family Eye Care in Brookville, OH excel in the prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 937-770-1265 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about night driving issues and what are the treatments available to help. Our eye doctors, Dr. Kyle Maxam and Dr. Cara Wampler, provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Brookville, Ohio.

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