During winter the sun sits lower in the sky. When this lower position of the sun at sunrise and sunset coincides with peak hour traffic, it makes drivers more susceptible to sunstrike.
Sunstrike happens when the angle of the sunlight that hits your windscreen creates glare, making it more difficult for a driver to see. Because of this, drivers may not see approaching cars or other road users like bikes, or even vehicles that are slowing down or have stopped in front of them. This has the potential to cause an accident.
So, what’s the best way to deal with sunstrike this winter?
1. Be prepared
Understanding the risk of sunstrike and being prepared for something to happen can help you predict and better manage a situation if one occurs. Be extra vigilant when approaching an intersection and pulling out into a street, making sure you’re not entering the path of another vehicle. And, if you’re on a main road with lots of traffic, slow down, wear sunglasses and use your car’s visors to mitigate the glare as much as possible.
2. Make yourself visible
Even if you’re not affected by sunstrike, other drivers on the road may be and may not be able to see you clearly. While it’s always good practice to have your headlights on while driving to improve visibility, this is even more relevant at times that sunstrike may occur. Also – even if you have right of way – double-check to make sure it’s safe to pull out or turn and that you’ve been seen by other drivers.
3. Keep your windshield clean
Dust and dirt on the inside or outside of your car’s windscreen can make sunstrike worse, so make sure you keep it clean. This will also help you see better when driving in the dark by mitigating some of the glare of approaching cars’ headlights.
4. Pull over if you must
If you’ve encountered sunstrike and your vision is impaired, it’s safest to pull over and wait for your vision to return. And, even if your eyes are fine, it may still be a good idea to pull over and wait a few minutes to give the sun time to move to a position less likely to cause sunstrike.
5. Know the hot spots
If you’ve been living in an area for a while, you’ll likely know the hot spots for sunstrike on your morning or evening commute. If possible, it may be worth taking a different route to avoid the danger of sunstrike during winter. But if this isn’t possible, make sure you’re extra vigilant when driving in these danger zones.
While sunstrike isn’t always avoidable, if you know to expect it and how to deal with it when it happens, you’re in a much better position to navigate the situation and get to your destination safely. Even little things, like keeping a pair of sunnies handy, and making sure your windshield is clean, can make a huge difference.