The true advantage of polarised sunglasses is they reduce glare. This was made abundantly clear to me the other morning while I was driving to work. We’ve just come into autumn/fall here in Melbourne and the sun isn’t as high in the morning as it’s been during the long, parched, incredibly bright summer. So as I approached the slip road that links to the freeway, I wasn’t expecting the glare to bounce off the cars ahead and momentarily blind me. Thankfully, I had my sunglasses poised on top of my head (a pair of Kurnell-Cook, if you’re interested and yes, I know this is a terrible way to look after them). I quickly settled them on my nose and… hey presto! The glare was massively reduced.
As a sunglass eyewear professional, you’d expect I’d already appreciate this is just what sunglasses do. But I was still taken aback – the change in my vision was that dramatic.
And it got me thinking – where else are we exposed to unexpected glare?
On the road.
Clearly, reflection off other cars and car windows are an obvious place to start. But I’ve also noticed glare off car bumpers (especially those old chrome ones), car badges (4WDs are particularly problematic), and sometimes even car registration plates. It’s exceptionally bad here in Australia, because we’ve got a lot of harsh sunshine reflected everywhere.
Another form of glare I find a nightmare is the light that reflects off just-rained-on tarmac after the sun instantly follows a rain shower. It’s so blinding it gives me an instant headache from squinting.
During my morning commute I also get a very bright glare coming off my own side mirrors or dashboard as a result of the low angle of the sun. Not too keen on that either.
On the beach (river/ lake).
This is a double whammy. As a devoted beach bunny, I can think of nothing worse than forgetting to bring my sunnies when I hit the sand. You get glare off the water and the sand (especially if the sand’s wet). So, on a 40 degrees day (104 F) I’m scorching my feet and my eyeballs at the same time!
On a mountaintop.
Snow. Amazing stuff, ain’t it? But you can so tell when I’ve been hitting the slopes – it’s the panda eyes that really give it away. That’s glare in action, even in the depths of winter. The sun may not be out but it’s still coming through strong – even on a cloudy Melbourne winter’s day, the shadows cars cast will have you reaching for the sunnies, tout de suite.
A touch of glass.
Have you ever walked down the street and seen the glare bounce off the buildings around you? Skyscrapers are particularly bad with their walls of glass windows. When you stop and think of your average city street, reflective glass is everywhere – buildings, cars, buses, trams, trains, shop windows, those little Perspex bus shelters…
I always find it amazing how much sun bounces off an airplane. Next time you’re at the airport, check it out – it can be ridiculously bright. Sports arenas regularly have huge swathes of reflective surfaces, and we’re often so used to it, we don’t even notice anymore.
Problem is, even if when we’re not aware of it, glare can still cause permanent damage to our eyes. So, if there’s one thing my morning commute has taught me, it’s that I should take my polarised sunglasses with me everywhere I go from now on – it’s the only way to be sure my eyesight is protected.