How Rain Affects Driving Vision

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Weather can affect what you see. Poor visibility while driving in the rain makes normal driving hazards even more dangerous. Giving your windshield wipers a workout doesn't always do much to help. Getting caught in the rain just makes everything harder to see. It doesn't matter whether it's day or night; less light affects how you see things. If you have cataracts, rainy conditions can make already dull and blurry vision worse.

What Happens

Typically, you see an object when light reflects from the object back to the eye. Rain blocks some of that light so less reaches your eyes. Besides the sky being darker, light scatters as it passes through raindrops. While rain reflects light from your car's headlights back to your eyes, this creates glare, which lowers your ability to see contrast in your field of vision.

Rain makes the road look darker. Less light decreases your ability to distinguish between the roadway and other vehicles or a pedestrian walking. Because everything around you is darker, your brain has trouble judging distance. Objects that are far away look hazy, but rain can make objects that are close look hazy, too. What happens is you may think a close object is farther away.

When you can't see as well, you tend to focus on objects that are closer. You may pay more attention to your car's dashboard display and what's in the rear view mirror instead of what's on the road. Your peripheral vision can be hampered as well, which means you may not be aware of what's coming at you from the side.

Taking the Necessary Precautions

If you have cataracts, the National Highway Traffic Administration recommends asking your eye doctor if it's still safe to drive. Your eye care specialist may have to change your prescription for eyeglasses more often so that you can see at long distances. When driving in rainy conditions, keep the windshield clean both inside and out. Smudges, streaks, and dirt on glass scatters light before it gets to your eyes.

Use your headlights even in the daytime when it's raining. Keep them clean, so they give you as much light as possible. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that just a little dirt can block up to 90 percent of the light they give off and hinder your ability to see.

Avoid using your high beam headlights in rain. Although your high beams will help you see farther down the road, the rain will reflect more of the light back into your eyes, making it harder to see.

Clean your eyeglasses while you're at it. If they're scratched, see your eye doctor to remove the scratches or get your eyeglasses replaced.

If you have any concerns about your vision when driving in the rain, visit an optometrist, such as Bethany Vision Clinic, as soon as possible. They will discuss your situation and the options you have.