Oakley Oildrum and Spike (background) and Serengeti Piso and Celcio (in foreground)
Oakley Oildrum and Spike (background) and Serengeti Piso and Celcio (in foreground). Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Justin Pritchard

Photo Gallery: Driving glasses

Every day your eyes are exposed to the same sort of damaging UV rays that will, over time, leave the paint on your car faded and bleak, or weather your fence or deck.

Squinting, eye fatigue and even long term vision damage can result if your eyes go unprotected, and remember – you only get one pair. So to keep your retinas from looking like weathered planks of cedar, you might be thinking of investing in a set of performance sunglasses for driving. Great idea!

Remember the age old adage that “you get what you pay for”? It’s true, especially when it comes to protecting your eyes. A pair of bargain shades from the two ninety-nine bin at your local gas and wash isn’t going to cut it.

I asked Dr. David Chisholm, an optometrist, to help sort out the importance of optimal vision for driving.

“Good vision is essential for safe driving. An eye examination will ensure you’re seeing well enough to drive at night, while prescription night driving glasses with anti-glare coating can improve your vision. It’s always a good idea to wear sunglasses, as glare can make driving more difficult. Always wear a good pair of sunglasses while driving!” he says.

Note, he suggests wearing a good pair, not a cheap pair. Certain manufacturers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to create stylish protection that helps to keep your eyes in tip-top shape. I’ve been trying out the latest models from Oakley, Serengeti and Dragon and here’s what I found:

Oakley Spike- ($305) & Oildrum ($255)

Oakley Oildrum
Oakley Spike
Oakley Oildrum (top) and Spike. Click image to enlarge

Oakley is one of the best-known names in performance eyewear, and they’ve developed some unique materials and technologies which are employed on their line of glasses, including the “Spike” and “Oildrum” models.

Polarized lenses common to both reduce glare by preventing reflected light from entering your eyes off of reflective surfaces like snow and water. This can take a serious load off of your eyes while driving, especially in winter. Oakley has also specified Iridium coated optics for both models, resulting in optimized light transmission. In effect, this fine-tunes the spectrum of light which is allowed to pass through the lenses and into your eyes, fine tuning colour perception and even enhancing vision in some cases.

The frames of the Spike glasses are made of titanium which is strong and light, and the grips are even formed of a material which becomes stickier when its wet – so if you perspire, they stay attached to your sweaty mug. They have a sleek yet oversized shape which keeps light from entering around the frame too. The bronzed lenses enhance colours, especially on bright, hazy days.

The Oildrum glasses pack all of the same features as the Spike, though they feature a high-density plastic frame with a cutting edge new style. Oakley credits a recent trend in oversized and geometrically dynamic looking glasses for the styling, and the Oil Drum appeals to those looking to make a statement – as these glasses are huge.

My only concern with the OilDrum had to do with the thickness of the arms: while driving I found they impeded peripheral vision during shoulder checks. Still, the Oakley OilDrum glasses are a good investment for your eyes and double as a fashion statement as well.

Serengeti Celcio ($199) & Pisa ($239)

Serengeti is a well known name in eyewear the world over, and within a few moments of sliding on a set of their Pisa driving glasses you’ll see why. The style is subtle, simple and classical, and they do an absolutely stunning job of protecting and enhancing your vision behind the wheel.

The most impressive facet of the Pisa glasses is the quality of the optics. In certain lighting situations, vision is significantly improved. This has to do with the polarization and spectral control technology built into the lenses.

Serengeti Celcio
Serengeti Piso
Serengeti Celcio (top) and Piso. Click image to enlarge

It filters out hazy blue hues, enhances colors and seems to make reflections off of objects with certain lines and curves really stand out. The lenses not only filter out UV light but optimize the types and frequencies of light that make it through – direct or reflected. The resulting improvement in sight can be compared to the difference between high definition TV and regular TV.

The only concern is a lack of nose-grips, and you may find yourself constantly pushing the frames back up your nose.

The Celcio driving glasses carry all of the same features as the Pisa model – but an incredibly lightweight set of slender and flexible arms coupled with frameless construction makes it feel as though you aren’t wearing any glasses at all.

Personally, I loved the fit and quality of the Celcio’s the best. Choose these if you don’t like the feeling of wearing glasses but still want to be protected.

I let Mike Babij, a former police officer, try the set out for me on a road trip he made recently. He’s been wearing sunglasses all day, every day, for years. “I occasionally suffer headaches which I attribute to constantly wearing glasses. Some people, I believe, are more sensitive to them. These Serengeti’s have been excellent. No headaches or fatigue because it literally feels like you aren’t wearing any glasses at all. The smaller lenses are nice as well, if you have to go from driving to reading or writing frequently – as the glasses needn’t be removed since you can easily see over or under the lens.”

Dragon Alliance Sunglasses: Chrome ($138), Faction ($178) and Fastback ($178)

When it comes to reasonably priced glasses and goggles to meet a variety of lifestyle and style needs, you might want to consider Dragon Alliance. Their lineup includes a full line of sunglasses which aren’t geared directly towards driving, though they can be worn throughout your day as a stylish form of protection.

Left to right: Dragon Alliance Chrome, Faction and Fastback
Left to right: Dragon Alliance Chrome, Faction and Fastback. Click image to enlarge

The popular new aviator-look glasses are called “Fastback”. They feature a durable metal frame with spring-hinged arms that hug your face just right. Protection, peripherally and otherwise, is very good – its small arms don’t block your view during shoulder checks.

The Faction glasses are a closer match to the Oakley Oildrum model. They’re similarly extreme looking while also featuring a translucent frame – though they’re not as large and bulky as the Oildrum shades. With the fading lines between men’s and women’s style across the industry, the Faction shades look good on either sex. I noted the large arms can impede shoulder checks when changing lanes. But when style is tops, Faction is second to none.

The Fastback shades offer the same polarization and UV protection as the other Dragon models, though their sleek yet discreet looking plastic frames deliver a style that can be worn anytime, anywhere. It’s the sort of shape and look that doesn’t have to be matched with anything. They’re ideal for people on the move.

All of Dragon Alliance’s shades offer 100% UV protection and polarization.

With so many options available, you’ll likely be able to find a pair of glasses to compliment your wardrobe and your ride.

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