A factor that may often be overlooked is sunrise and sunset driving. These conditions can have a significant effect on your driving ability, as sunrise or sunset driving can potentially limit your ability to see completely.
It’s not only the dark that poses a visibility risk when driving, as sunrise and sunset driving can potentially have more of an effect than darkness does. When the sun is situated at an angle that puts it right in our eye line, being unable to look away from it can have a potentially blinding effect. Some other ways in which sunrise and sunset driving can impact your driving ability include:
– Your eyes must adapt to the changing level of brightness during sunrise and sunset driving times and it becomes more difficult for you to easily pick up any possible threats.
– The road will be darker, with deep shadows resulting in less contrast in colours – even though it is light outside.
– Your stopping distance is reduced, due to a lack of visibility under sunrise and sunset driving conditions.
– When sunset driving, your headlights aren’t able to work 100% effectively because it isn’t completely dark, due to the natural light.
– Driving at these times are often the times when drivers are at their most tired, having just woken up or as they return home from a day’s work
– Exhaustion severely impacts your driving ability as your reaction time is much worse under these conditions. (It is especially dangerous for elderly drivers experiencing natural, age-related changes in vision.)
It’s not only drivers who are at risk during these times, it’s important to remember that during these periods you will be sharing the road with many other road users. Some of these include:
– Pedestrians heading to and from work or school, especially children pedestrians.
– Many runners or joggers on the road, both before and after work.
– Cyclists also often do their training rides at this time when it is not so warm. (They may be especially vulnerable when heading towards the direction of the rising and setting sun when passed by faster moving vehicles and drivers with reduced visibility.)
– Livestock and wildlife may be crossing the road, for those drivers who use more rural roads.
We take a look at some ways in which you can better deal with these conditions, in order to minimise any chance of accidents due to lack of visibility:
– Drivers who are informed and alert of the potential risks, will be more able to make the necessary adjustments required, when under these conditions.
– Think ahead, know the route you’re taking so you don’t need to make any snap decisions.
– As much as possible try and avoid driving under these conditions.
– Ensure alertness by avoiding driver tiredness, planning your rest stops and avoiding all driver distractions.
– Be mindful of other drivers, and switch to your low beams if there’s oncoming traffic or if you’re following another vehicle.
– Have good sunglasses available to you within easy reach. Investing in polarised sunglasses also helps, as they reduce glare even more.
– Utilise your sun visor: you can position it to block out the sun.
– Let your eyes adjust: While our eyes naturally adjust to the darkness, each person’s will adapt differently. It can take up to 30 minutes, so drivers should reduce speed during these periods.
– Make sure you have your eyes checked every so often. Your vision will change as you age, as well as your ability to see under certain conditions. A 50-year-old driver may need twice as much light to see comfortably over a 30-year old driver.
Vehicle safety and roadworthiness
– Make sure your vehicle is properly tested and is in its best possible working condition.
– Make sure your headlights, taillights, brake lights and indicators are all working and are clear to other road users.
– Clean both the outside and inside of your lights to ensure clarity.
– Check your mirrors and adjust them accordingly.
– Make sure your windshield and windows are cleaned on both the inside and outside.
– Check your windows and windshield for any cracks or signs that indicate they need replacing.
– When you next get a service, get them to check the aim and alignment of your headlights, in order to maximise visibility.
Adjust your driving style!
Possibly the most important way to reduce the risk of sunrise and sunset driving, is by adjusting your driving style. For sunrise and sunset driving, this is recommended:
– Always reduce speed when under conditions of reduced visibility.
– When your speed is reduced, you have more time to respond in case of an emergency.
– Increase your following distance, when the sun is in your eyes it’s much harder to judge what the vehicle in front of you is doing.
– Be extra cautious when driving in areas of pedestrian activity.
– Check your rear view mirrors more often, for any vehicles rapidly approaching you from behind.
– Be aware and stay alert of your surroundings. Know beforehand when you will be turning to face into the sun.
– If you’re blinded by either the sun or oncoming traffic, look towards the left hand side of the road. Find the line and steer by following that line until you can see again.
– If you cannot see, you shouldn’t drive. You can always pull over for a few minutes until the sun has moved, so that it’s not directly in your eye line.
Many of these aren’t only specific to sunrise and sunset driving, so share with your friends and family and make the roads safer.
PHOTO: iStock/Vladimir Vladimirov