Sunshine in winter can often take drivers by surprise, but during the early part of the year, problems caused by sun glare tend to peak. During the hours near to sunrise and sunset, the sun is at a low level in the sky, but can still be extremely bright, and the glare that this causes can be dazzling. Many vehicle crashes are caused by sun glare, the Department for Transport figures show that it amounts to 2% or roughly 3,000 of all road collisions where death or injury occurs. Thankfully, with a little care and preparation, motorists can avoid the problem.
Watch out for gradients – going over the top of a hill can leave you confronted by a dazzling vista, especially if you’ve just come out of the shade of trees or buildings. Make sure your sun visor is already down so you don’t need to fumble with it while trying to keep the car on the road. Try to anticipate when the dazzle is likely to hit, so at least you are ready.
Be aware of slippery roads– being dazzled makes many motorists stamp on the brakes, which is a problem if there is ice or water on the road. Multiple collisions are a common factor in driving in winter sun. Even if the sun is shining brightly, the roads can still be icy or slippery with lying water. If you drive a vehicle with a temperature sensor fitted, take note of the temperature and be aware of any frost alerts.
Minimise the dazzle – the glare from the sun itself is not the only driving hazard you may encounter. The problem can be intensified by wet roads, and your car windscreen can make matters worse. Dirt, smears or scratches on the windscreen (inside or out) can make the whole effect of dazzle much more severe, so ensure that the windscreen is thoroughly clean before starting your journey and that you have a full windscreen washer bottle so that you can keep the screen clean as you drive. Ensure your wipers are working properly too – you don’t want to be peering through a streaky screen.
Don’t clean the screen during a dazzle – if you apply screen wash while the sun is dazzling you, it will make the situation more treacherous as the light will be refracted all over the place. Wait until you’re out of danger and then clean it thoroughly.
Keep your distance – as with all warnings about driving, this one is the most fundamental, but the most often disregarded piece of advice. Put quite simply, if you’re too close to the vehicle in front, you won’t have time to react if there is a problem. Leave a 2 second gap in normal conditions, and a larger gap if the road is icy or slippery.
Watch the other cars on the road – if you see the vehicle in front suddenly brake, it is possible that the driver has been dazzled, so take evasive action at once. It’s also worth remembering that if the sun is behind you, approaching cars may be dazzled too, so it’s a good idea to use your headlights so that they can see you. The sun can also strike your rear view mirror, so it’s a good idea to switch it to the dip position to prevent glare from behind.
If you are sunglasses wearer, keep a clean pair in the vehicle and put them on if there is a danger of being dazzled. Make sure you clean any frost off your windscreen before you drive off, and above all, be prepared.