Every driver knows that keeping safe in your car means keeping your eyes on the road. This might change one day, when we’re all zipping around in driverless cars, with eyes fixed firmly on our smartphones. For now though vision is key, but there's more to watching the road than concentration.
Driving safely also means making sure that your line of vision is kept clear. Whether it's a foggy windscreen or a small crack, it shouldn't distract you from the road ahead.
Demist your windscreen before you set off
It's common to find your windscreen misted up when you get into a cold car. It's important to clear it thoroughly - there's probably a windscreen demister button in your car that will direct maximum airflow to the windscreen to clear it quickly. Air-con's not just for summer - it helps to dry the air in the car too so helps clear a misted windscreen. Keep a micro-fibre cloth in the car to wipe the screen if it mists over again while you're driving.
Rear screens mist up too but have electrical heating elements running across them to clear this quickly. (Some cars have an electrically heated front windscreen too with very fine wire heating elements embedded in the glass.) You might be fortunate and have heated mirrors as well otherwise you'll have to resort to a wipe with a cloth. You could also try demisting sprays, which claim to leave your windshield fog free for a few weeks.
For foggy glasses, wipe them with a cloth (preferably a micro-fibre lens cloth) making sure no smears remain. There are also anti-fog lenses available, and are offered by most opticians.
How to avoid windscreen glare
The glare of light from the sun or passing cars is another potential distraction when you're driving. The best way to reduce glare is to make sure that your windscreen is clean inside and out, and free from any cracks or stone chips. Cleaning your windscreen and wiper blades will help ensure that there are no smears.
Drivers that wear glasses without glare protection can be affected quite badly, suffering from headaches or eye strain. Glare resistant lenses are commonly available from most opticians and are ideal for frequent drivers. You can also look out for anti glare driving glasses.
Dealing with windscreen damage
Chips or cracks in the windscreen can obstruct your vision either directly or by causing distracting glare when driving at night or in bad weather conditions. This makes it hard to see any oncoming hazards. Even scratches can be a problem as they cause glare from sunlight. If chips or cracks are ignored then they can grow. Small areas of damage can be repaired but once the damage is bigger you're more likely to have to fork out for a new windscreen.
Small chips or cracks can be easily repaired using specially developed clear plastic resins with the same optical properties as glass. You can find out more about windscreen chips and cracks in this article on windscreen safety.
While a cracked windscreen is not specifically considered a driving offence, the Highway Code requires that windscreens and windows must be kept clear and free from obstructions to vision.
A large crack, or other damage could be considered a sufficiently serious obstruction to vision. But it's worth remembering that so could dash-mounted tech like phones, sat-nav or dash-cams. Windscreen stickers, or objects hanging from the rear view mirror could also be a problem if they're too big or poorly positioned.
Failure to keep your vision free from obstruction could result in a fine and three penalty points. It may also mean you're held responsible in the event of an accident and could cause your car to fail its MOT.
For more information on things that can affect your view of the road, you can find articles on driving safely in adverse weather conditions in our advice section. You might also want to take a look at our breakdown cover, that gives you 24/7 assistance when you need to get back on the road.