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Sunglasses not a priority for Australian drivers: optometrists

10 November, 2011

Safety is taking a back seat for Australian drivers, with more than 60 per cent of people risking accidents by driving without sunglasses on glary days according to a new national survey by Optometrists Association Australia (OAA).

The survey of 1,000 Australians that examined attitudes to eye health and sunglasses, also revealed that 26 per cent of people who require prescription sunglasses are potentially also putting themselves at risk by wearing regular sunglasses when driving.

OAA National Professional Services Manager Jared Slater said the research was extremely worrying as safety should be paramount when it comes to driving.

"Road incidents often occur because people become momentarily dazed or disorientated by sun glare. It is essential to protect your eyes when driving in bright, glary or generally sunny conditions,"he said.

"Individuals who struggle with long distance vision should be particularly conscious of the dangers of driving without their corrective lenses."

The survey exposed men as the most at risk group with almost 70 per cent of males driving without protecting their eyes from glare. And when it comes to protecting our eyes from UV damage, according to the latest research, more than half of all Australians are not adequately protecting their eyes, risking cataracts, eye lid cancer and pterygia.
The survey revealed that Victorians are the worst in the country with 64 per cent of them failing to protect their eyes from the sun.

Slater says it’s vital Australians protect their eyes from UV damage by wearing sunglasses even on cloudy or overcast days. "UV exposure accumulates over time which heightens the risk of damage to the eyes, particularly as you get older. Wearing a hat and sunglasses that meet the Australian standards can significantly reduce the risk of UV damage,"said Slater.

"Protective lenses that adjust to changing light conditions like Transitions lenses are a convenient option for people who wear prescription glasses, and there are options available for driving as well."

Interestingly, the survey demonstrated that prescription wearers are significantly more concerned about UV eye damage than non-prescription wearers. While awareness of, and concern over, eye health issues has grown over the last five years, with 30 per cent of Australians now listing eye damage as an effect of UV radiation compared
with just 10 per cent in 2006, it’s not enough according to Slater.

"It’s great to see Australians starting to realise the serious consequences of prolonged sun exposure to our eyes, but awareness is growing at a slow rate, especially compared with the emphasis placed on protecting our skin. Both are critical to our overall health and wellbeing and we encourage all Australians to take action on eye health," said Slater.

OAA launched its UV Protection campaign this week, urging all Australians to make protecting their eyes from UV damage a part of their everyday routine. Optometrists are experts in vision care and can assist Australians in selecting the right sunglasses or UV protective lenses for their lifestyle. For more information on pterygium or
other eye conditions, see an optometrist or visit:

You can also download a brochure from the campaign website at:

Tips for protecting your eyes against UV damage:

  • Make a habit of wearing sunglasses or UV protective lenses when outdoors, including on overcast and cloudy days.
  • When purchasing sunglasses, look for high category (Australian Standard) lenses and remember that a higher retail price does not necessarily mean better protection.
  • Sunglasses that wrap around the face and are close-fitting provide better protection against UV damage.
  • Lenses that automatically adjust to changing light conditions, such as Transitions lenses, provide convenient UV and glare protection for prescription lens wearers.
  • Ask your local optometrist to check the fit of your sunglasses or UV protective lenses.
  • Visit your optometrist regularly for an eye examination.
Source: Optometrists Association Australia (OAA)

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