The 1984 Corey Hart single “Sunglasses at Night” is still regarded as an anthem for people who bend the rules when it comes to wearing their sunglasses. Indeed, there are people who wear sunglasses at night just because they can. But do that in Ohio and you could get arrested.
It is illegal in the Buckeye State to operate a motor vehicle while being impaired in any way. Known by the acronym ‘OVI’, operating a vehicle while impaired could land you in big trouble. A recent case in point involved a 59-year-old man who was arrested after being observed doing 70 mph in a 35-mph zone. When police finally caught up with him and pulled him over, they discovered he was wearing sunglasses. Why was this a problem? Because it was nighttime.
Not only did he get a speeding ticket, the driver was also cited for OVI. Police determined he was impaired because wearing sunglasses at night prevented him from seeing clearly. The driver objected, telling police officers that wearing his sunglasses was the “best way to see,” according to WKBN News.
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The VLT Principal
Though the Ohio man’s fate has yet to be decided by a court, his case raises an interesting question: how dark do sunglasses have to be in order to qualify for an OVI citation at night? The answer is probably more elusive than your typical court knows.
Utah-based Olympic Eyewear explains that sunglasses are rated for two different kinds of light: ultraviolet light and visible light. UV protection doesn’t require any tinting as ultraviolet light cannot be seen by the naked eye. Blocking visible light is another matter. It is accomplished by tinting sunglasses in order to filter out excessive visible light.
Sunglasses are VLT (visible light transmission) rated from 0 to 4. The higher the rating, the more visible light the lenses block. This takes us back to the question of how dark sunglasses have to be in order to deserve an OVI citation?
A pair of sunglasses rated 0 or 1 barely has any tint at all. In fact, there are some tinted prescription lenses that are just as dark as 0 and 1 rated sunglasses. The fact is that measuring impairment is not as easy as it sounds. Alcohol and drug impairment can be determined through both blood analysis and roadside tests. But how do you test for eyewear impairment?
Still Not a Good Idea
It would seem that the Ohio man has a fairly decent chance of beating the OVI charge. Unless Ohio law includes some sort of provision for determining eyewear impairment, it is going to be hard for police to prove in court that the man’s vision was actually impaired.
Having said all of that, wearing sunglasses while driving at night still isn’t a good idea. Your eyes need all of the visible light available to stay safe on the road once the sun goes down. If you don’t think that’s true, conduct a little experiment next time you are a passenger riding in a car at night.
Request to sit in the front seat and then don your sunglasses. Ride for about a minute, then take your sunglasses off and ride for another minute. Then put the sunglasses back on. Do this a few times and you will quickly realize just how much you cannot see with your sunglasses on. You really should not wear them at night unless you have a legitimate medical reason for doing so. And even with such a reason, you absolutely should not drive.