HAMILTON – It is a major hazard and a big threat to safety on area roads this time of year. It’s the glare from a force of nature – the rising or the setting sun. Squinting and straining can be dangerous and can easily hamper a driver’s ability to see the road, other on-coming vehicles, children heading to and from school, pedestrians, cyclists, and even traffic lights and signals.
Blinding rays from the sun can also reduce a driver’s reaction time when heading east in the mornings and west in the evenings. What’s more, research shows older drivers are most likely to be momentarily blinded by glare when the sun is on the horizon. Motorists should take precaution to avoid being blinded by the light, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic.
“Unfortunately, most drivers don’t anticipate the dangers of sun glare until they are overtaken by it, and then that can be too late to react safely,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Drivers are far more attentive to road conditions like snow, rain, sleet, or high winds. They tend not to give glare the degree of risk needed. The glare from the sun will be a risk factor on area roads until Daylight Saving Time ends on November 3.”
As it happens during the morning in the fall, the rising sun aligns itself perfectly with many east-west roadways, advises the National Weather Service (NWS). “It is during the first 15 to 45 minutes of sunrise that sun-glare becomes a serious hazard to motorists,” the NWS explains. Likewise, “motorists traveling westbound can also experience sun-glare as the sun drops lower toward the horizon,” counsels the NWS. The agency cautions such conditions have caused hundreds of accidents, many of them deadly, across the United States over the last several years.
To avoid glaring sun-related crashes, area motorists should drive as they would in low-visibility conditions such as rain or fog, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. Most of those dangerous glare-related incidents occur when the sun is coming up or doing down, traffic safety experts say.
“Older drivers are more likely to get involved in crashes if glare obstructs their vision,” according to a study conducted by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study shows that 38.5 percent of drivers involved in crashes related to glare exposure were of “age 45 years and older.” Compounding matters, “drivers middle-aged and older are more sensitive to glare than younger drivers because their eyes take longer to adjust to changing light levels,” advises the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety. For example, “a 55-year-old takes eight times longer to recover from glare than a 16-year-old.”
Streaks, smudges, and road grime on your windows catch and refract light, advises the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety. Although most drivers fail to realize it, chemical from the plastic in your car’s interior slowly build up on the glass, until pretty soon you’re looking at the windshield, not through it. That means all that dirt on your windshield can make sun glare much worse.
To avoid crashes, drivers should take steps to reduce glare advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. With this in mind, the National Weather Service and AAA Mid-Atlantic provide safety tips to area drivers.
- Wear sunglasses with polarized lenses, or wear eyeglasses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating. Scratched eyeglasses or contact lenses make the glare worse.
- Heed the speed limit, particularly if you are driving into the sunrise on your way into work or the sunset on your way home.
- Slow down. The more space you have, the more time you have to react.
- Increase your following distance beyond the recommended safe distances to allow three or more seconds between vehicles.
- Turn headlights on so oncoming motorists can see you as they are driving toward the sun.
- Clean your windshield outside and inside. A cracked or dirty windshield can magnify glare.
- Use your visor as much as possible, but remember that visors can also block your vision.
- Consider alternate routes to minimize east/west driving whenever possible. Use north/south streets until you find an east/west road with lots of trees or taller buildings.
For maximum glare prevention, keep every surface between your eyes and the road as clear as possible – including both sides of your windshield and your eyeglasses.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
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