Ever gotten a sunburn while driving with the windows up? A new study explains why. Most vehicle windshields block harmful UV-A rays—the kind that raise the risk of everything from cataracts to skin cancer—but your side windows might not, says Brian Boxer Wachler of California's Boxer Wachler Vision Institute. He tested 29 cars made from 1990 to 2014 and found that front windshields blocked 96% of UV-A rays, reports HealthDay News. Side windows, however, blocked just 71% of rays on average. Some blocked as little as 44%. The gap in protection may be to blame for a greater occurrence of cataracts and skin cancers on US patients' left sides, Boxer Wachler says.
"It had no correlation at all with the cost of the car," he adds. An expert at Louisiana State University says the difference might be that windshields are made of laminated glass to prevent shattering, while side windows are made of tempered glass, reports Reuters. "Don't assume because you are in an automobile and the window is closed that you're protected from UV light," she says. A dermatologist suggests wearing sunscreen and sunglasses while driving, and window tinting products are "a great option for those who have older cars or cars that don't have the protection already built in." (Time to count your moles.)