Polarized vs Non-Polarized Sunglasses for Driving


It goes without saying that eyes play a massive role in safe driving and having clear visibility is a vital factor in any driving experience. The bright rays of the sun can distract your vision, especially early or late in the day. Therefore, using a pair of sunglasses can help mitigate risk and decrease your odds of an accident.

Polarized lenses, unlike non-polarized, will block vertical sun rays, reduce glare, as well as offer better contrast sensitivity and accurate perception of colors. However, polarized lenses do not work well in overly cloudy or snowy conditions and perform poorly with digital displays, like GPS.

There are quite a few other things that you need to know, so please read on and let’s look deeper into the topic.

Advantages of Using Polarized Sunglasses

Initially, NASA created polarized sunglasses for astronauts as an instrument against space radiation. However, today, they are often used by drivers, sailors, and outdoor enthusiasts.

A thin layer of the chemical film covers the mirrored lenses of polarized sunglasses. The film eliminates the harsh ultraviolet rays during daytime driving and filters the light reflected from snow, wet road surfaces, and windshields. The chemical film consists of tiny molecules. These molecules are vertically arranged on the lenses and reduce the sharpness of horizontal rays of sunlight.

Polarized glasses were made to enhance color perception and increase sensitivity to contrast. Non-polarized sunglasses will also block the intense sunlight, but they won’t cancel the reflected light from wet surfaces.

With an opened car window, polarized sunglasses will block the eyes from wind currents and dust particles. As for night driving, the NASA-designed lenses will block the bright light of street lamps. They will also minimize the distraction effect of flashing signs.

The advantages of using polarized over non-polarized lenses include:

  • Better contour and contrast sensitivity
  • Accurate perception of colors
  • Reduced glare and reflection from wet and white surfaces
  • Minimized eyestrain
  • Improved visual focus and comfort

Disadvantages of Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses have many benefits. Yet, there are situations when the non-polarized lenses are a more safe option. During cloudy days, drivers find that the non-polarized sunglasses are better than the polarized ones due to lack of glare and absence of extreme sunlight rays.

Driving after a snowfall wearing polarized lenses can be dangerous for the driver. The patches of ice or iced snow on the road won’t be visible due to the blocked glare of polarized sunglasses. In this case, the benefit will become a disadvantage that may cause an accident.

Also, at night-time driving along a dark road with hardly any street light lamps, wearing polarized lenses will make it harder to see as they dim the available light better than the non-polarized glasses. Of course, in a low-light situation, it’s better to avoid wearing sunglasses at all.

Pro Tip: Polarized sunglasses do not cooperate effectively with all windshield tints, so make sure to check the compatibility of your car’s tint colors with your polarized lenses before getting behind the wheel.

The most significant disadvantage of polarized sunglasses is that they don’t perform well with digital screens and displays. They cause the images and information on LCD screens to blur or to disappear at certain angles. You can find LCD on your smartphone or GPS, so never use these devices when driving in polarized sunglasses.

Disadvantages of polarized lenses:

  • Never wear when using an LCD screen
  • Bad for night driving and low-light situations
  • Not compatible with some windshield tints
  • Dangerous to use after snowfalls
  • Bad for cloudy days

Day Driving vs. Night Driving

During day driving, polarized sunglasses are best to use when the sunlight is so intense that it starts to reflect from surfaces and blind the vision of a driver. Non-polarized glasses won’t help with the glare and the reflected light. The contrast and contour of the road, other vehicles, street signs, and pedestrians will be more accurate in polarized lenses.

As for night driving, polarized lenses will help with incoming traffic and the bright lights from other passing vehicles. They are also suitable to use for brightly lit streets.

However, in low-light situations, it is not recommended to use sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses at night on dark roads will do more harm than good. If you find driving at night a difficult task, then try using night driving glasses that are made specifically for such dark conditions.

What Color Polarized Lenses Are Best for Driving?

The best colors of polarized sunglasses when driving are amber, copper, gray, and green. Different tints can show the colors and light in different ways. Some colors enhance your vision, while others make everything seem faded and distorted.

Just keep in mind that the color of the lenses does not affect how well the glasses protect your eyes from ultraviolet rays. It’s more about what works best with your particular windshield tint or specific conditions you typically drive in.

Amber and copper tints considerably improve contrast and sharpen the outlines of objects. They also visually brighten the surrounding environment during a cloudy day. Gray hues have the advantage of showing the colors in their most natural and pure form. Yet, they still decrease glare and reflections. Green shades help to minimize eye strain and increase contrast, sharpness, and contour.

Important Warning: As a driver, you need to avoid blue-colored sunglasses as they are dangerous to wear on the road. Yellow sunglasses are also not suitable for driving. They are good at improving contrast, but they distort and falsify the colors.

Best Polarized Sunglasses (Which to Buy)

I recommend that you only purchase 100% UV protection should coat well-made polarized sunglasses. Do not opt for darker-colored lenses, as this will only impact your clarity of colors while not adding to the protection from the sun and UV rays.

Here are my recommendations. Please click the links to see the Amazon listing for the exact model I recommend.

Best High-End Options

The polarized sunglasses that are considered among the best on the market are:

Best Budget Options

If you are looking for polarized sunglasses that are less likely to break your budget:

You can’t go wrong with any of these options, but my favorite and personal choice is the Ray-Ban Clubmaster “Green Flash” sunglasses. I was am a huge Marvel fan, and I love the “Green Goblin” look these sunglasses provide. πŸ™‚

Bottom Line

Both polarized and non-polarized sunglass lenses will help protect the driver’s eyes from extreme brightness. However, except for certain conditions, polarized will probably be best for most folks.

Thanks for reading!

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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