We all know that weather like sleet, snow, and rain can cause dangerous road conditions, but few people take into account just how dangerous sun can be at certain times of the day. If you have ever driven around sunrise or sunset, you probably have experienced the temporary blindness while driving caused by sun glare. It should be no surprise, therefore, that sun glare contributes to many accidents every year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sun glare is the main cause of only a few hundred accidents in the United States every year; however, this figure has been estimated to be widely under-reported by road safety organizations like AAA. That’s because sun glare accidents rarely have the sun as a sole cause. More commonly, the sun temporarily blinds the driver to a hazard they could have otherwise avoided, such as a pedestrian or sudden curve in the road, or to road signals, such as stop signs, that are then ignored. This can cause horrible accidents that damage cars and injure pedestrians.
Preventing Sun Glare Accidents
This time of year, sun glare can be particularly dangerous. During the spring and fall, sun glare accidents are most common, especially at sunrise and sunset. If you must be on the road when glare can get into your eyes, it is important to take extra precautions against the risks posed by the sun. The following tips can help you protect yourself from temporary sun blindness while driving:
- Wear polarized sunglasses. They reduce glare and protect your eyes from UV damage. The only truly effective way to eliminate sun glare is to wear 100 percent polarized lenses.
- Slow down. If the sun is getting in your eyes, it can be tempting to carry on in hopes that it will go away soon. This risks an accident. Stay well below the speed limit and give yourself extra time to react to hazards you may not otherwise be able to see.
- Increase your following distance behind cars. Allow at least three or more seconds between your car and the next.
- Turn your headlights on. It may seem counterintuitive to increase the light that could get in someone’s eyes, but it actually helps oncoming traffic to see you better, especially if they are driving into the sun.
- Use your visor. It can help block some of the sun. Just don’t let it get in the way of your vision too much.
- Keep your windshield well-cleaned on both the inside and outside and in excellent condition. A dirty or cracked windshield actually magnifies glare.
- Avoid using high-gloss vinyl cleaners on your dashboard. These increase glare in your car.
- Find alternative routes that minimize east/west driving whenever possible. If you must use a road that goes east to west, try to find one with as many tall buildings or trees that block sunlight as possible.
- If you can, avoid driving around sunrise and sunset. While sun glare is possible at other times of day, it is much less likely to be a problem.
If you follow these tips, you may not be able to avoid sun glare altogether, but you are much more likely to prevent sun glare accidents. Take extra precautions with sun glare just as you would in inclement weather. A pretty day doesn’t always make for good driving.