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Sunrise, sunset: Driving tips to keep you safe during both events

How to see the road ahead during the most blinding times of the day

Published August 25, 2013
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Last week there was a spate of truck collisions, primarily on the 401,
that brought traffic to a standstill throughout the GTA. The last report I
heard was the cause may have been these drivers were blinded while driving
into the early morning sun.

But we can’t really blame the sun for this. Alas, it is the driver’s fault.

Everyone knows there are two times each day that we risk facing
directly into the sun while driving. When the sun is right on the horizon it
can be very difficult, sometimes almost impossible, to see where you are going.

Two winters ago I was involved in a near-miss situation in which a motorist
in an SUV stopped dead in his tracks on Hwy. 48. He was blinded by the sun setting directly on the road as the highway angled uphill just outside of Coboconk.

The vehicle in front of me saw the stopped SUV at the last second and swerved towards the ditch just in time. I was prepared for driving into the sun and saw this close encounter unfold in front of me. My sunglasses were already in position and my speed had been reduced due to the limited visibility.

Before you strap yourself into your vehicle, a simple check of the time and weather can tell you if you will be driving directly into the sun at some point during your travels. There’s no need to be caught off guard while hurtling down the highway at about 30 metres per second.

Here’s how you should prepare for the likely event that the sun will rise and set every day. All sarcasm aside, it’s serious business:

1. Look farther up the road and stay focused on your driving so you can know ahead of time when you may be turning to face directly into the sun. Think ahead and be ready.

2. Have good sunglasses at the ready. By this I mean within a seconds’ reach and not stuffed away in the glove box, purse or sliding around the floor of the vehicle. Ideally, keep them on your head, ready to be swung down in a split second when needed.

3. Expect traffic to slow when you do head into the sun.

4. Be prepared to pull off the road in a safe place if you still can’t see. Don’t stop on the travelled portion of the road as the driver in the aforementioned SUV did. The sun will rise high enough or sink low enough in a few minutes to allow safer driving. Be patient.

5. Your car’s sun visor should be lowered when needed so the sun is blocked.

6. Try not to look directly into the sun but towards the edge of the road. Looking directly into the sun can cause eye damage.

7. Reduce your speed to reflect the fact that visibility is compromised. You don’t have to slow to a crawl but slow down enough to compensate for reduced visibility.

8. Leave a bigger gap between you and the vehicles in front of you and remember to keep an eye on your rear view mirrors for any vehicles rapidly closing in from behind.

9. Keep your windows clean, especially the inside of your windshield. Off-gases from the vinyl dashboard will start to coat the inside surface of your windshield with an opaque film that greatly reduces visibility when the sun shines directly on it. It is much worse for those who smoke in their vehicles. A good quality glass cleaner or a simple mixture of vinegar and water will clean this film off.

10. Put your headlights on, (not just your DRLs), not so much for the light ahead of you but for your tail lights, which only come on when your headlights are on full. Having your tail lights on will enable motorists behind you to see you better.

wheels@thestar.ca

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