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  • Driving at Night: Do Yellow-Tinted Lenses Improve Vision?

    By Lynda Seminara
    Selected and Reviewed By: Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, October 2019

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    Advertising claims for yellow-tinted lenses state that they improve night vision by reducing glare and eyestrain. But in a study that involved simulating nighttime driving conditions, Hwang et al. found that donning the lenses did not improve participants’ ability to detect pedestrians. The findings indicate that yellow lenses do not live up to product claims and that more work is needed to address nighttime driving challenges such as headlight glare (HLG).

    For this single-center cohort study, the researchers enrolled 22 adults, all of whom had normal visual acuity. For the main experiment, 12 participants (mean age, 28 years) were assessed under nighttime conditions for their ability to see and respond to a pedes­trian wearing a dark navy-blue shirt. The remaining 10 participants were evaluated for their ability to detect and respond to a pedestrian wearing an orange shirt—and these 10 were divided into two groups, one of younger (n = 6; mean age, 27 years) and another of older (n = 4; mean age, 70 years) participants.

    The researchers developed a simu­lator that replicates the HLG from on­coming cars. Each participant “drove” scripted night-driving scenarios four times (once with each of the three com­mercially available glasses with yellow lenses and once with clear glasses); the HLG simulator was turned on or off for each scenario. Before starting the initial scenario, each participant took at least one introductory drive to become acquainted with the driving simulator environment and the experiment’s tasks. The main outcome measure was response time for the critical task of detecting a pedestrian. (The pedestri­ans were portrayed as either walking alongside the road or attempting to cross the road.)

    The researchers found no significant difference in response time with the various yellow lenses for any experimen­tal condition—and no benefit when compared with clear lenses. Among younger drivers, the impact of HLG was more pronounced with the simulation involving the navy-wearing pedestrian. In the simulation involving the orange-wearing pedestrian, older drivers were significantly slower to respond than were younger participants (1.5 seconds vs. 0.3 seconds, respectively).

    Thus, yellow lenses did not appear to improve drivers’ ability to detect pedestrians at night or to reduce problems with HLG. These findings challenge the notion of recommending the lenses to patients who have poor nighttime vision. (See also related com­mentary by Robert W. Massof, PhD, in the same issue.)

    The original article can be found here.