Windshield Glare is a Driving Hazard
this Time of Year

The risk of motor vehicle accidents on the South Plains increases this time of year due to the alignment of the rising and setting sun along the east-west roads. In past years, serious multi-vehicle accidents have been observed along South Loop 289 in Lubbock near the Science Spectrum around 8 am. A contributing hazard is the rising sun combined with dirty windshields which lead to a blinding glare for drivers.

 Graphic illustrating a sun glare problem. This problem is exacerbated around the equinox on east-west oriented roads.
Graphic illustrating a sun glare problem. This problem is exacerbated around the equinox on east-west oriented roads.

 

The spring and fall equinoxes are important astronomical events for the South Plains because many of our roads follow old section lines and have an exact east-west orientation. On the equinox, the sun rises and sets precisely along this same axis and as such can leave motorists blinded.

In particular, around the fall equinox, including the two weeks either side of the equinox, our time of sunrise (730-8 am CDT) corresponds with the early morning peak traffic rush when people are hurrying to work or taking kids to schools. The most dangerous time is the first 10 to 15 minutes after sunrise when the sun is absolutely on the eastern horizon, or directly along the axis of most of the road. Motorists driving toward the east can be almost completely blinded by the sun during that critical time, unless we get lucky with clouds or fog that could block the sun.

A multiple vehicle pileup on Loop 289 can begin when a collision occurs between vehicles attempting to enter eastbound lanes of Loop 289. Drivers approaching from the west on Loop 289 become blinded and are unable to see the wreck ahead or respond in time and thus plow into vehicles in front of them. As many as 10 vehicles or more can be involved.

Picture taken at sunrise on the autumnal (fall) equinox while driving eastward on an east-west oriented road. Picture is courtesy of Todd Lindley.
Picture taken at sunrise on the autumnal (fall) equinox while driving eastward on an east-west oriented road. Picture is courtesy of Todd Lindley.

Other east-west routes on the South Plains have similar hazards. The situation may also result during evening rush for west bound traffic.

Some of the most tragic wrecks can be around schools where kids may walk across the road and east-bound traffic is not able to see them.

There are a few things that you can do to lower your risk:

  • Be aware that cars traveling toward the sun at sunrise or sunset my be virtually blinded.
  • Clean your windshield thoroughly, including the inside, since dirt and haze on the glass increases glare and makes it especially hard to see.
  • Increase your following distance beyond the recommend safe distances to allow three or more seconds between vehicles. If you get cut off, keep your cool and maintain a safe distance. What matters is safety.
  • Wear sunglasses to help reduce glare.
  • Be alert to changing cloud cover and changing traffic flow.

 
Sunrise and Sunset Times
September 15, 2012.....Sunrise 7:31 am CDT; Sunset 7:53 pm CDT

..

September 22, 2012.....Sunrise 7:36 am CDT; Sunset 7:43 pm CDT
..
September 30, 2012.....Sunrise 7:42 am CDT; Sunset 7:32 pm CDT

For a complete listing of times CLICK HERE.


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