The Best Sunglasses for Driving

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Driving is hard on your eyes. The constant need for vigilance with moving hazards and changing light conditions mean your peepers work harder than any other part of your body behind the wheel. Add in blinding sun and glare from snow or the road itself, and it’s easy to get tired fast.

Sunglasses give your eyes respite from some of that pressure. The best driving sunglasses help even out the levels of light coming into your lenses and help reduce strain by filtering out distracting inputs. We’re talking things like sunlight hitting the reflective edge of a roof in just the worst way for your eyes in that moment, or the blinding flash as you exit a tunnel of come out from under a bridge. All those moments that make you raise your hand instinctively to shield your eyes from the glare are causing your eyes to fatigue.

The right sunglasses can make or break a road trip and can even save you from a nasty crash. Anything that improves your vision and makes it easier for you to see is a potentially life-saving piece of equipment.

Your sunglass selection will be affected by the type of driving you do, when you do it, and what sort of car you drive. Polarized glasses have always been this writer’s favourite, but they don’t work if you have a head-up display projected on your windshield, as they filter out that wavelength and you can no longer see it. If you’re not worried about seeing the head-up display or an LED dashboard, then a polarized set will protect you from more distracting light bursts and glare, which leaves you feeling fresher even at the end of moderately long drives.

Most of commute in the early morning and return home at dusk, when the low sun on the horizon is most irritating and produces the most inconsistent pattern of light. Sunglasses are well worth keeping on hand for those times. Read on for our favourite sunglasses for driving.

1. Editor’s Pick: Serengeti Carrara Black

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The metal and leather frame of Serengeti’s Carrara Black sunglasses provides supreme comfort that complements their high-quality polarized lenses. These are the eyewear of choice for those of us who value comfort, style, and consistently clear vision.

The optical glass is made from extremely fine borosilicate mineral, so these lenses are feather-light, and a range of chemical and thermal treatments gives Serengeti that trademark brownish hue.

The chemically tempered surfaces are scratch and chip resistant, and the back is coated in an anti-reflective layer to allow light to pass through cleanly. The company promises remarkable clarity and these glasses deliver. For glare-free driving in luxurious comfort, these glasses can’t be matched.

If you are the sort of person who frequently loses or breaks your glasses, maybe look elsewhere. These are at the more affordable end of the luxury spectrum, but they’re still not cheap glasses. On the plus side, they are robustly built and high quality, and will last decades barring incident. They also look great on both men and women alike.

2. Best for UV Protection: Maui Jim Guardrails 327

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The Maui Jim aviator-shaped Guardrails 327 glasses bear the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation for being an effective UV filter. The polarized lenses are scratch-resistant, waterproof and anti-reflective. They are designed to enhance colour even while filtering harsh light.

Maui Jim’s patented “bi-gradient mirror” provides better glare reduction than competitors by offering different degrees of shading at different light angles. We like the ultra-light titanium and nickel frame, as well as the soft rubber bridge supports that sit nicely on your nose.

That aviator shape is both attractive and functional, offering a wide spread of light protection. Some Maui Jim glasses focus more on clarity, or more on glare, but the Guardrails fill a nice and chunky spread of the middle ground making them a great go-to for driving. The only downside is the hefty price tag, which put these out of touch for many drivers.

3. Best Value: Duco Driving Sunglasses

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It's hard to ignore Duco’s driving sunglasses. It is equally hard to ignore their vibrant and distinct design, with flashy alloy frames and a range of strikingly coloured rectangular lenses.

Duco offers UV400 protection, and a variety of polarized lens tints. We recommend the brownish/yellow tints over the darker black, which is oppressive and not as good in lower light such as dusk conditions. We also advocate you stay away from the blue tints, as they can interfere with some of the colours you need to be able to see while driving.

Adjustable silicone nose pads and the soft-tipped arms mean you can wear these comfortably without them falling off, even during physical activities like cycling or jogging.

4. Best Non-Polarized Glasses: Oakley Gascan

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Oakley’s Gascan sunglasses provide 100 per cent protection against three types of UV light as well as blue light. Not all UV-rated shades protect from UVA, UVB, and UVC rays but Gascans do. These are not polarized lenses, so they’ll work with your head-up display or your LCD instrument panel.

The plastic frames are lighter than their bulk would suggest, and the lens is sculpted to wrap neatly around your eyes for full coverage without impeding your peripheral vision. The lenses are on the dark side, so these might be too aggressive in early mornings or sunset, but that darkness makes for eye comfort during long drives on hot days.

Not all drivers will appreciate the chunkiness of the frames or the brutalist rectangular shape of the lenses. But if this style does appeal to you and you need sun and glare management without a polarized lens than these units from Oakley will do the job.

5. Best Retro: BluBlocker Aviators

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The black nylon rim and yellow-tinted aviator-shape lenses of the BluBlocker Aviators tug at the nostalgic driver’s heartstrings. These super-cool sunglasses filter out light and give you a warm, even spread of colour that makes it easier to drive in low-light conditions where glare is an issue.

We love them for the comfort that comes of a nylon frame and the classic aviator shape. You’ll enjoy the way these lenses clear all the harshness out of the light without interfering with your view of any devices, because they’re not polarized.

BluBlocker sunglasses are at the upper end of the price range for mainstream sunglasses brand but look like they’d cost more than they do. Long story, short: Try these if you want a funky retro vibe for the boulevard and gentle light in your eyes while driving.

6. Best for Low Light: OwO HD Night-Driving Glasses

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The yellow tint of the OwO HD night-driving glasses enhances the light you need to see while filtering out the spikes in wavelength that cause eye strain. These are a large pair of shades with a cutout window for the sides to enhance your peripheral vision while also protecting you from glare at acute angles.

OwO glasses are designed to fit over the top of your prescription lenses so you can see clearly without having to buy prescription shades. The polycarbonate lens material is scratch and impact resistant while still maintaining good optical clarity.

The styling on this set isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but again, the focus here is on practicality. This solution from OwO allows users to protect your full field of vision from glare while also retaining the prescription lenses you need to see clearly. When you consider the cost of prescription shades versus the cost of a driving glass that doesn’t interfere with your existing set these become a compelling offering.

7. Best for Bright Sun: ATTCL Polarized Sunglasses (Dark)

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The dark tint on ATTCL’s polarized sunglasses offers extreme comfort on long days spent in bright light conditions. It can be painful to cover long stretches in bright sun, especially in winter when the sun is bright and the reflection from the snow is overwhelming. ATTCL’s dark-tinted polarized driving glasses make those days easier by offering excellent light filtration.

The robust metal frames and springs also mean these are good for working drivers, even if the cool square shape says “runway” more than “loading dock”. Sunglasses can feel claustrophobic for some, but the seat of the nose bridge and the design of the frames put these shades further away from your face than others in this list. The result is a sense of space that isn’t common in sunglasses, while the frames and lenses are still big enough to give good coverage for your entire field of vision.

Because they are so dark, these glasses lose their effectiveness at the early and late stages of the day, but they’ll help you avoid white-line fever during long hours on the highway. One word of caution: the lens coating isn’t waterproof so be careful how you clean them.

What are Aviators and Wayfarers?

Most people have heard of Aviators but not everyone knows that they are exactly. Aviators are one of the many shapes of sunglasses. They are a kind of sideways teardrop and are designed to follow the contours of your eyes and nose to provide coverage for your full field of vision in the days when lenses were virtually flat. They became popular with pilots as a result, and because pilots are cool, so are their glasses.

Another common shape is the wayfarer. Those are the almost-square style that taper slightly toward the bottom. Wayfarers were made famous by Ray-Ban and became a fashion icon throughout the 50s and 60s.

These days the most common shapes for sunglasses aimed at men are rectangular and wrap-around glasses while women have a more interesting range of shapes that generally more rounded or dramatic.

Lens Materials

Shades might be made of anything from a polycarbonate material through to rare-mineral glass. Most higher-end sunglasses are made from some form of glass, while plastic-type materials are used in lower-end glasses. Plastic glasses are generally most impact resistant and lighter, while glass lenses offer better clarity and are more scratch resistant.

Are Iridium Lenses Polarised?

You might know Iridium as the mirror-finish material on sunglass lenses that makes them impossible to see through from the outside. They are usually block more light than other types of lens coatings. Many people think of the Iridium effect when they hear the word “polarized” but the two things are not actually related.

Iridium is a metallic coating. It operates like a tint and either reflects or absorbs light. Polarization is a chemical coating that filters light differently. It’s the filtration of certain “shapes” of wavelengths that prevents polarized lenses letting LCD screens and head-up display images through.

Why Do I Get a Headache When I Wear Sunglasses?

Unlike prescription glasses or reading glasses, most of the time the headaches you get from wearing sunglasses are because of fitment. Either the sunglasses are fitting too snugly to your head, pinching on your temples, or they are causing your muscles to strain to keep them in place. If your glasses are adjustable than you might be able to fix the issue, otherwise you might want to find a quality pair of sunglasses.

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