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Night driving safety tips

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- While driving around the KMC, do you find it difficult to see the road ahead? Have you wondered why night blindness seems worse since you PCS'd to Germany? Do you find it difficult to navigate your way home in the morning or after work? If so, you are not alone as this affects drivers in the KMC area, including eye care professionals like myself. Here are a few mitigating factors that can cause poor night vision:

One, we no longer have the many street lamps and lane reflectors that we are normally accustomed to stateside. As a result, the reduced lighting diminishes your ability to see highway lane width and depth and can lead to poor anticipation of road conditions and turns.

Two, our eyes naturally adapt to a darker environment. Dark adaptation is both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage we gain is that after a brief period of adaptation (absent of bright light) the human eye senses greater shades of grey and black, perfect for low-light level conditions. The disadvantage is dark adapted eyes are extremely sensitive to light and any advantages are promptly eliminated when any brief flash of light (headlights) bleaches visual photoreceptors and temporarily "blinds" vision.

Three, you may have blurred vision. For those currently wearing glasses, a small amount of uncorrected vision may further degrade vision at night. Your local eye care professional may give you a prescription that will help you see better at night. We recommend eye exams every two years for spectacle wearers and annual exams for contact lens wearers or earlier if you notice changes in your vision.

Despite these factors, here are a few things we can do to improve night vision:

1. Eat healthy. Poor night vision can be attributed to a deficiency of vitamin A. Foods rich in vitamin A include spinach, carrots, cantaloupes, apricots, dairy products, egg yolks, fish liver oil (omega 3 fatty acids) and liver. Note: Pregnant women should consult a physician before taking vitamin A supplements because of the link between this vitamin and birth defects. 

2. Quit smoking. Studies have shown smoking contributes to poorer night vision. One study found that temporary abstinence from smoking could sharply improve the night vision of smokers. Several studies found that smokers were more likely to have automobile accidents than nonsmokers were. Another study reported that, among people who had automobile accidents, smokers were more than two times as likely to have their accidents at night. 

3. Use your high beams when safe. High beams will help you see the road farther ahead and can effectively increase how well you see. Use them with caution and remember to turn off high beams when approaching opposing traffic. 

4. Maximize car safety. Utilize driver safety tips already promoted by your local safety office. Make sure visibility is clear around your vehicle windows before driving, replace your old wiper blades, drive defensively and in a speed consistent with road and lighting conditions, check your tire for proper pressure and tread life and check brakes. Keep your windshield and headlights clean as this will improve your view to the outside.

By following these tips, your driving comfort in Germany should be enhanced. To make an eye appointment in the KMC, call 486-LRMC (5762).