Beat the dazzle: a useful guide to buying sunglasses

Low sun in a residential street.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 9 April 2021

Sunglasses can help you to drive safely on sunny days. This blog explores the EU standards for sunglasses and gives you tips on buying a pair with a suitable tint.

Hello! Well, we’ve been away on holiday for a while, but now we’re back with more great advice to help you stay safe and enjoy your driving.

This blog is all about sunglasses. You might be wondering what sunglasses have to do with safe driving – you just stick them on when there’s a bit of dazzle and earn additional ‘I look cool points’ into the bargain? If only that was all there was to it!

Life in the shade(s)

Sunglasses can be a good option if you’re driving on very sunny days, where bright sunshine or dazzle from the road can affect your view of the road ahead. They can also be useful in winter when the sun is low in the sky or light is reflecting off snow and ice.

Now, if we’ve got you searching the internet for a new pair, then try and hang on until you’ve read the entire article, because there’s some rather important information you should know before you part with any cash.

Standard information

The EU sets the standards for sunglasses. This means there are rules designed to make sure that

  • lenses are shatterproof and scratch resistant
  • lenses provide good protection to the wearer
  • frames are sweat resistant
  • frames are reasonably strong.

Pairs of sunglasses sold in the EU should be marked with the CE label; any not bearing this label may not meet the minimum standards outlined above.

OK, so is that the science bit over? Well, not quite. Not all sunglasses provide the same level of tint. Some are darker than others, so are more suited to certain conditions. Some are just too dark to drive in at all. To help ‘grade’ the glasses, the EU has created categories

  1. Light tint – for low sunlight – not for night driving
  2. General purpose sunglasses – for medium sunlight – not for night driving
  3. General purpose sunglasses – for bright sunlight/glare – not for night driving
  4. Very dark – for very bright sunlight/high glare – not for driving at any time.

A quick look through that table should tell you category 4 – which only lets in 3 to 8% of light – is definitely not suitable for driving at any time! Thankfully the others are not quite so extreme, but if you buy a category 1 set of sunglasses and try and use them in bright sunlight, they’re not going to reduce glare very much. That said, remember there are times when sunglasses should not be worn while you’re driving – when visibility is poor, at night and also when you’re driving in tunnels.

Buyer beware

Make sure that you know what you’re buying. Stores should be able to tell you how much tint there is in the glasses they’re selling and which glasses are unsuitable for driving (category 4).

If you’re buying from online suppliers, double check that this information is available to you and if you have any doubts at all, contact the seller before you buy.

I can see clearly now the pain has gone

Experiencing glare or discomfort while you drive may not *just* be a result of the conditions outside your vehicle. If you notice anything different about your vision, then it’s really important that you get your eyes checked by an optician. Safe driving relies on you being able to see clearly.

For more information on safe driving, visit the Safe Driving for Life shop.

Until next time …

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