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Is Reading in the Car Bad for Your Eyes?

Anyone who has ever been on a long car ride knows things can get pretty dull. 

Thus, many people decide to pass the time by getting lost in a good book. 

But, you may worry, is this extra eye stress detrimental to your vision?

Reading in the car is not bad for your eyes, even though it can cause eye strain. Generally, many people assume reading in the car is bad for their eyes because the small movements of the book or device while riding can cause eye fatigue. 

In this article, I will detail whether reading in the car will harm your eyes and why doing so may cause some eye pain and fatigue. 

I will also discuss how you can prevent eye strain when reading in the car and other possible symptoms you might experience when performing this activity. 

Will Reading in the Car Damage My Eyes?

A man in a suit reading a newspaper and a driver sitting in front of the car.

Reading in the car will not damage your eyes. 

There is nothing about the act of reading while in the car that will harm your eyes. 

Why Does Reading in the Car Make My Eyes Hurt?

There are a few reasons that reading in the car can make your eyes hurt, and they all have to do with eye strain. 

Eye strain occurs when your eye muscles have to work harder than usual. 

One reason that eye strain occurs when reading in the car is that your eyes have to move around more often to focus on the words. 

Even in cars that give you a smooth ride, there are still little bumps in the road that cause your book or device to move. 

And even the slightest movement, when it occurs repeatedly, will force your eyes to keep jumping around to continue reading. 

Thus, the muscles in your eyes have to work over time, which can lead to some pain or fatigue. 

Additionally, when reading in a car, you oftentimes have to deal with the direct sunlight coming in through the window. 

And since you don’t really have anywhere to go to get away from it, you just have to deal with the bright sunlight hitting the page or causing a glare on your mobile device. 

This disturbance ends up making you squint your eyes, which can also lead to eye fatigue. 

How Can I Prevent Eye Strain When Reading in the Car?

An old woman wearing a black blouse and eyeglasses is reading a newspaper inside a car.

There are several ways to prevent eye strain when reading in the car, and I will discuss your options below so that you, too, can read more comfortably. 

Pick the Right Seat 

One significant way to prevent eye strain when reading in the car is to pick the right seat. 

However, keep in mind that what is the best seat will differ depending on the person and the driving conditions. 

For example, if the sun is excessively bright or the vehicle is very bumpy, you will probably have the best chance of reducing eye strain if you sit in a middle seat. 

Not only is the middle seat furthest from the windows, but it is also the least turbulent area of the car. 

Or, if you will be riding in the same direction for a long time, you should think about the position of the sun when choosing your seat. 

For example, if you will be on a northbound highway for hours, you’ll want to sit on the car’s left side in the morning and the right in the afternoon. 

If you do so, you will stay out of the sun the entire day. 

Read From a Printed Book Instead of a Screen 

If you’re going on a long road trip, it’s better to read from a traditional book than to use your phone, tablet, or computer. 

Print is better for reading on car trips because it causes less strain on your eyes. 

There are many reasons why reading on a screen is worse for your eyes, but primarily it’s because you blink quite a bit more when using a screen which can quickly lead to eye fatigue. 

Take Breaks 

Of course, the best way to prevent eye strain is to keep your eyes from overworking themselves in the first place. 

So, if your eyes start to feel tired, dry, or itchy, or you begin to get a headache, take a few minutes to do something else like listening to music. 

Prevent Dry Eyes 

Keeping your eyes from getting dry will keep you from blinking too much, which will help with eye strain. 

And there are a few ways to keep your eyes from getting dry when riding in the car. 

The most effective way to prevent dry eyes in the car is to reduce the amount of air blowing on your face. 

Now, of course, your best bet is to keep the air conditioner and heater off, but this isn’t always possible when riding with others and in certain climates. 

So, if you can’t keep the air off, you should move the vents away from your face so that they don’t blow near your eyes. 

You should leave the windows up for the same reason. 

Additionally, if you smoke, it’s best to keep it to a minimum because cigarette smoke can easily irritate your eyes, even if it’s to a small degree. 

If you are traveling with someone who smokes, try not to sit behind them. 

Opt for Large Text 

The larger the text you read, the less likely you are to suffer from eye strain, mainly because it is harder to lose your place and have to search for it when you read larger print. 

And you don’t necessarily need to read from a large-print book to gain the benefits. 

Even a print that is slightly larger than average can do a lot to prevent eye strain. 

So, when choosing a book to read on a road trip, pick one with decent-sized, easy-to-read text. 

Or, if you are reading from a device, increase the font size to a reasonably large size. 

Other Possible Symptoms Caused by Reading in the Car 

Besides eye strain, you may also experience motion sickness and headaches when reading in the car. 

Motion sickness occurs when your brain receives mixed signals regarding movement. 

Typically, motion sickness happens when your body perceives that you are moving, but your eyes remain on an unmoving object, like a book. 

Motion sickness can cause symptoms such as: 

  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Cold sweats 
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Fatigue 
  • Irritability 

If you start to get motion sickness, ask the driver to pull over for a while. 

Getting a headache is also a common occurrence when reading in the car. 

Some of the reasons you may get a headache when reading in the car include: 

If you get a headache while reading in the car, take a break for a while so that your muscles can relax. 


Reading in the car is not bad for your eyes. 

However, this activity can cause your eyes to feel fatigued.

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