How to Reduce Glare when Driving at Night

Driving at night can be a daunting task for new or even experienced drivers; the highest crash rates occur at nighttime (6:00 PM - 6:00 AM). Additionally, traffic fatality rates are three to four times greater at night than during the daytime. Part of this comes from the likelihood that drivers are driving when tired, stressed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol[1] You can reduce the dangers by making sure you have as few risk factors as possible, and can see as easily as possible. At night, our vision is more limited (low lights decrease depth perception and peripheral vision and cause the pupils to dilate, often blurring vision), and glare from the headlights of other vehicles can temporarily blind you. Glare is particularly invasive since it can cause temporary blindness, dizziness, and confusion.

Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce and handle glare through the use of specific techniques, strategies, and equipment.


  1. 1
    Check your car before you start to drive. Especially if you are going to be driving toward the sun or after dark, before you put the car in gear, take a few moments to determine if you need to do some spot cleaning. Keep window cleaner and paper towels in the car so you can deal with this whenever you need to.
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    Clean the windshield, windows, and glass surfaces. This includes the car's mirrors. Any streaks, road grime, or smudges on the glass scatter light, reducing the contrast of objects on the roadway and consequently can make them appear invisible[2]. Also, clean the inside of the windshield, because plastic chemicals can slowly build up on the glass. Clean the wiper blades using a paper towel and windshield washer fluid to remove the grime and oxidized rubber from the edge of the blade. This helps prevent streaks. If there are still streaks, you will probably need to get new blades. If there are any chips or cracks in your windshield, have them repaired immediately.
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    Clean the car's headlights. Even small amounts of dirt on the lamp can reduce the light output by half and restrict your ability to see and be seen. This is especially true if you have HID (High-Intensity Discharge) lights, because dirt diffuses the light from the lamp, causing glare that can be blinding to other drivers. If/when you have an annual inspection or you have a check-up at a dealer, car mechanic, or repair shop, have your headlights aligned. At least half of the vehicles on the road have an improperly aimed headlight and sometimes even both are misaligned. Properly aligned headlights will not only help you see better, but they will also keep you from casting the glare on other drivers. Older vehicles can improve headlight illumination/transmission efficiency by lapping or polishing the exterior of the headlights. As a result of exposure to road dirt, sand and road debris, the exterior of the headlights can become crazed, pitted and dull. Most auto parts suppliers carry a "lapping/polishing compound" specifically designed for headlight exteriors.
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    Adjust the car mirrors properly. The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends this method for setting your mirrors: Lean to the left and rest your head against the window and adjust the driver side mirror so that you can just see the left rear corner of your vehicle. Then, lean to the right to the center of the vehicle and adjust your passenger side mirror until the right rear corner of the vehicle is just visible. This mirror setting reduces glare, blind spots, and makes it easier to identify vehicles on the side and rear. (Of course, if you are in a country where you must drive on the left side of the road - reverse the above directions.)
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    Have your vision checked regularly. According to the American Optometric Association, everyone under age 60 should have an eye exam at least every two years, and annually after the age of 60. [3] The older you are, the more sensitive your eyes become, but medical conditions associated with your eyes can also severely amplify the problem. If identified early, you may be able to get adequate treatment. If you have any glasses or contact lenses, make sure they are clean and scratch-free. Scratched and dirty glasses make glare worse.
    • Almost one in three drivers reports difficulty seeing when driving at night.[4] Raise any particular concerns you have with your eye specialist.
    • Check regularly that your prescription glasses or contact lenses are up-to-date. Your eye specialist can help confirm this for you.
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    Avoid looking directly at the headlights of oncoming traffic. Instead, look down and to the right. You should be able to gaze at the white line on the side of the road or where the pavement meets the shoulder. Use the right side of the road for tracking your lane instead of the left side. You will still be able to see other vehicles with your peripheral vision, but the glare won't bother you as much. Reverse these directions if you are driving in a country with left-hand traffic.
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    Flip the rearview mirror. You can change the mirror to its night setting by flipping a small lever at the bottom of the mirror. Lights will still appear in the glass, but they will appear much dimmer and therefore not be as bothersome. If your car is equipped with an electrochromatic rearview mirror, it will dim automatically and requires no manual adjustment.
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    Take frequent breaks if you're driving at night for extended periods of time. Having a break reduces fatigue and gives your eyes recovery time. You should also take a short nap or a brisk walk to keep alert.


  • Slow down when driving on winding or rolling roads at night. A sudden flash of headlights coming around a corner or over a crest can blind you and take you by surprise. If you're driving slowly, you'll have time to correct your surprised reactions or simply stick to your winding course safely.
  • If these tips are failing you, try to drive less at night or drive only on routes that have overhead roadway lighting and clear pavement markings. Another alternative is to have someone else drive who has better eyesight at night, or have a passenger who is ready to help warn you of things you might be missing.
  • There are self-dimming mirrors available from some dealers and automobile parts stores that reduce glare but allow for excellent visibility. These mirrors become darker as glare becomes brighter and lighter when glare diminishes.
  • If you wear glasses, try getting a pair with an anti-reflective coating that reduces internal reflections in the lenses. These lenses do not block light––they transmit 8 percent more light–and improve night vision. Such glasses even help to distinguish very fine details during the daytime.
  • Some plastic headlight diffusers become cloudy and hazy in time and drastically reduce headlight brilliance and cause a yellowish color. There are products made to clean plexiglass boat windshields that clean the haze off easily. Apply a dab with a bare finger and rub it randomly until almost dry then polish it off with a cotton cloth (do not use microfiber or paper; they will eventually leave scratch marks).


  • An eye condition called astigmatism can make night driving difficult. Speak with your eye care specialist for advice. They may recommend hydrating your eyes periodically at night.
  • Avoid using "night" driving glasses (sometimes labeled with the word "polarized"), which are tinted and supposedly block glare. In reality, these glasses reduce the amount of light you perceive, meaning they reduce your night vision overall, not just glare.
  • Don't install imitation HID lights, these are just tinted halogen headlights that usually provide less light than regular bulbs because of their tint. Instead, either use real HID lights or the lights recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer.
  • Never wear sunglasses at night. They restrict night vision, and as you get used to them, they will be less efficient for daytime protection.

Things You'll Need

  • Updated prescription glasses or contacts if necessary, with an anti-reflective (AR) coating
  • Regular eye check-ups (at least bi-annually, preferably annually if you already wear corrective lenses)
  • Windshield cleaner (water repellant type is highly recommended)
  • Self-dimming mirrors (optional)

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