We often think of a sunny day as being the ideal time for driving to our next destination. But studies show that your risk of being involved in a life-threatening car accident can be 16% higher in bright sunlight than in other weather conditions.
Why? And what can you do to protect yourself and reduce the risk of a sun glare accident?
Below, we provide some of the causes of sun glare collisions and offer some key safety tips to keep everyone traveling on the road without incident.
Why Sun Glare is Such a Problem for Drivers at All Times of the Day
We all know that when the sun is lower on the horizon and shining directly in your eyes, it can be nearly impossible to see because of the glare. Obviously, this is a dangerous situation for anyone on the road, and both drivers and pedestrians are at risk during these times of the day. But did you also know that you are in danger from sun glare even when the sun is high in the sky in the middle of the day?
Your sense of vision is critical when it comes to safe driving. Yet even someone with perfect eyesight can suffer from visual illusions that cause them to misjudge the size, position, and motion of an object. In particular, judgments about distance that rely heavily on aerial perspective can be misleading in bright sunlight.
That is because bright natural light increases the luminosity, contrast, and resolution of the terrain around us, making distant landscapes seem closer than they are and reducing our perception of speed. Not only does the incorrect perception of speed cause drivers to misjudge appropriate actions when approaching other vehicles, but it also often causes them to inadvertently increase their speed to compensate for the effect.
Prepare for Glare in Advance
You can reduce the dangers posed by sun glare by preparing in advance:
- Keep your windshield clean. Dirt, insects and other debris on a windshield scatters the light, making it even more difficult to see in sunny conditions. Make it a routine habit to check to see if the windshield is clean each time you set out, and keep a roll of paper towels or windshield wipes in the car to handle clean-up duties.
- Keep wipers in good condition and make sure the fluid reservoir is full. Set a reminder to regularly check to see that you have sufficient wiper fluid to keep the windshield clean as you’re driving. Consider keeping an extra gallon in your trunk in case you need a refill.
- Keep a pair or two of polarized sunglasses handy in the car. Polarized lenses have a special filter that blocks intensely-reflected light and they are particularly effective against glare.
- Check your speedometer regularly to ensure that visual illusions caused by light patterns are not subconsciously affecting your speed.
- Fix chips or cracks in your windshield as soon as you notice them. Sunlight bouncing off imperfections reduces visibility considerably.
- Don’t place shiny or reflective objects on the dashboard. Even a brochure printed on glossy paper can add extra glare to your windshield.
- Drive with your headlights on. While the extra light will not help you see in sunny conditions, the lights make you more visible to other cars and can reduce your risk of a head-on collision.
Additionally, if you know that there are certain days of the year when the timing of sunrise or sunset is likely to cause a glare problem for you, try to plan an alternate route to or from work that avoids or minimizes the impact of the glare. In some areas, routes with tall buildings or trees block the sun effectively.
What to Do When Suddenly Struck by Sun Glare
Despite your best precautions, there will still be moments when you find yourself temporarily blinded by sun glare. When that happens, the best course of action is to back off the accelerator and slow down to the speed you would travel in a major rainstorm or thick fog.
Additionally, make sure to leave enough distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you in case the driver brakes suddenly. Also, try repositioning or extending sun visors.
Seek Help if You’re in an Accident Caused by Sun Glare
While you can take all the right steps to keep yourself from colliding with another vehicle due to sun glare, you can’t always count on other drivers to be as attentive and prepared. If you are in an accident caused by sun glare and another driver did not behave responsibly, he or she could be held liable for harm caused by the accident. Although the most important thing after an accident is to get a thorough medical exam to detect injuries, it is also a good idea to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to learn how to protect your rights and preserve your options for recovery.