Polarized Sunglasses Tested for Shortcomings

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Longstanding concerns about polarized sunglasses inspired ADS Sports Eyewear to take a closer look at polarized lenses. The results of this research were often contrary to conventional wisdom, and the lessons learned are so significant that some fundamental safety information should be rewritten.

ADS Sports Eyewear

This research focused on three long-standing beliefs:

  • Polarized sunglasses should not be used as motorcycle sunglasses because polarization makes it harder to see puddles on the roadway.
  • Polarized sunglasses should not be worn by snow skiers because polarization makes it harder to see ice patches on a ski slope.
  • Polarized sunglasses should not be worn by golfers because polarization affects depth perception.

This myth busting project began by investigating the belief that glare from a puddle will help a rider identify a water hazard more quickly. Motorcyclists have repeated this for generations. We found this to be the most disturbing misconception that we investigated.

Glare is scattered light that obscures vision. A motorcyclist may be able to determine that a bright splash of light in the roadway is water, but the glare would make it very difficult to determine the safest response to this hazard. By eliminating glare polarized sunglasses made water hazards much more recognizable. Obstacles such as rocks and sticks in the water were more visible, and the depth of the water was more evident. Our testing never found a single instance where glare made any obstacle easier to see.

Polarized motorcycle sunglasses had an adverse effect on rider safety in only two instances. Some full-faced helmets and a few motorcycle windshields have stresses in the material that are visible through polarized lenses. These stresses can become opaque when viewed through a polarized lens.

The exact same logic that applies to motorcyclists identifying a puddle applies to snow skiers identifying a patch of ice. Glare obscures the obstacle as well as everything around it. Polarized ski goggles or ski glasses allow the skier to see rocks and sticks in the ice and identify inconsistencies on the surface of the ice.

The belief that polarized sunglasses alter depth perception for golfers was more difficult to evaluate. We were unable to create any situation where polarization had an adverse effect on depth perception. Conversely the sharper contrast from polarization created much better depth perception. Polarized copper or cinnamon provided the best contrast on a green or blue backdrop. We were testing polarized eyewear from Kaenon, Maui Jim and Native Eyewear. These higher quality lenses may explain the positive results. Lesser quality lenses can affect depth perception whether they are polarized or not. The fact that many professional golfers are winning tournaments wearing polarized sunglasses supports the conclusion that polarization is not a handicap.

ADS Sports Eyewear employees took a very personal interest in these tests. Sports enthusiasts make up the majority of ADS Sports Eyewear clientele. Looking out for their safety and quality of life is not only a fundamental responsibility, it is also good business.

The value of polarized sunglasses in sporting activities became so apparent that ADS Sports Eyewear added a link to the top of their home page at http://www.ADSEyewear.com that filters out everything except polarized sunglasses.

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DAVID DUMAIS
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