Drivers: Cyclists, pedestrians and Glare

Two cyclists were taken to hospital Wednesday after each went hurtling into a windshield in what police said were “almost identical” accidents just 23 minutes apart. Both drivers were somehow blinded by the sun, neither of them seeing the cyclist.

Two cyclists hurt in separate collisions.

This is sad, because it is avoidable. Most drivers know that visibility during  morning and evening driving when the sun is low is problematic. They can see massive objects like other cars, trees, or buildings, but pedestrians, animals and bicyclists are frequent victims to what is called “sun glare”. But do drivers get adequate training on how to avoid sun glare?

Insurance BC (ICBC) driver’s licence guide has a chapter that they call See-Think-Do, about being a smart driver. It doesn’t mention the sun or glare. I have not taken driving lessons here, so I don’t know if this is something that comes up during instruction.  Just in case, here’s a shortlist of things drivers can do to avoid injuring other people, courtesy the smart motorist, and moi.

  1. Take the bus! Why is this first? Because it is foolproof, you can’t personally injure people when you’re not driving, and you can be assured that your professional driver likely knows more about driving than you ever will.
  2. Know when the problem is worst:  Early spring and early fall when the sun rises due east and sets due west, and roads are laid out perfectly east-west, and north-south.
  3. Driving in glare causing conditions is as dangerous as driving in fog or rain, so drive anticipating danger. It’s a beautiful sunny day without consequence when you’re sitting in a bus watching the sun rise over the ocean, or playing hooky from work, not while piloting a dangerous vehicle.
  4. Aerodynamic tilted windshields make you more vulnerable as they increase scattering. No, don’t go out and buy a boxy SUV, you’ll injure more people that way.
  5. Light coloured dashes are out, get darker interiors. Yes, it may get a little warmer on a few days in the summer, but the solution to that is a sunshade, and cracking your windows.
  6. Avoid, as in avoid ghastly cleaning products that shine up your car’s insides. Yes, shiny is often associated with clean, but might I add, that an understated clean shows more polish :)
  7. Clean windshields. That buggy, dusty windshield will scatter more light, keep it clean. Also, older windshields eventually get micro-scratches from all that dust, and all the cleaning in the world will not improve things. I wonder if one’s insurance company will pay for a replacement if the windshield becomes a safety hazard. I mean, it is more honest that a strategic stone throw, or other devices.
  8. Polarised sunglasses. Surprising that sunglasses are not mandatory while driving, they really really help. I should know, having never worn one for many years. I got a prescription pair five years back, and I can’t imagine driving, biking, or walking in the sun without one.
  9. Attention. Of course, texting, talking, eating, changing channels, berating your children, vacuuming your car, polishing your dashboard, etc.

If you are a visual learner, here’s a helpful, very short video from consumer reports.

Image courtesy bootbearwdc’s flickr photostream used under a creative commons licence.

 

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