Traffic safety experts urge motorists to be sun-glare aware at sunrise and sunset this time of year.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sun glare causes approximately 9,000 crashes each year. It’s the second environmental-related reason drivers get into crashes, with the first being slick roads.
“After the time changes from daylight saving time to standard time, the sunrise and sunset hours more closely align with morning and evening commuting hours, which means large numbers of drivers will encounter the sun low on the horizon during their morning and evening drives,” said Lou Hatter, the Virginia Department of Transportation public affairs manager for the Culpeper District. “In some locations the sun appears to hover just above the roadway, creating blinding glare that is difficult to avoid and can leave drivers unable to see the road and other vehicles around them.”
In past years seasonal sun glare has been determined to be a contributing factor in some vehicle crashes, particularly on interstate and primary highways. The effect is most acute in mid- to late October through the winter months because sunrise and sunset so closely correlate with peak commuting hours, VDOT reported.
“While we can control our own behaviors to prevent distraction while driving, it’s important to also consider and plan for what we can’t control, such as environmental factors like road glare,” said David Tenembaum, actuarial manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. and board member of DRIVE SMART Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to raising traffic safety awareness among all road users in order to save lives and reduce injuries on the roadways of Virginia.
Safety experts shared tips for early-morning and late-afternoon drivers that may reduce the hazards:
Be aware of sunrise and sunset times and the location of vehicles around you.
Consider adjusting your drive time; starting just a few minutes earlier or later will change the sun’s position relative to the roadway.
Reduce speed when approaching an area where the sun hovers above the pavement.
Allow extra distance between your vehicle and others to reduce the risk of collisions.
Do not swerve, slow or stop suddenly; other drivers behind you may not be able to slow or stop.
Current traffic conditions, VDOT’s statewide network of traffic cameras and other real-time travel information is available on the 511Virginia website, from the VDOT 511 mobile app or by calling 511 from any phone in Virginia.