EyeTools Optometry Skills

161: Driving towards a low Sun.

One of my patients complains of glare from a low Sun in the morning when she drives to work. What can I do?

I don’t drive a car very often and prefer to use public transport. I live 100 m from a light railway station and 250 m from a bus stop so using public transport is easy for me. However, on occasion, I do need to use my car. As I leave my house I immediately enter a road that faces East and on a November morning in the UK  this causes a serious visual problem. I have to drive towards a low winter sun and it is very difficult to see.

Driving in winter often means having to contend with the sun starting to rise or set at peak commuting times, blinding drivers are they navigate already hazardous road conditions. Generally, bright sunlight causes temporary blindness when the sun is at a relatively low altitude (i.e., just after sunrise or before sunset when the sun is just above the horizon) and its rays fall directly in an individual’s line of sight. Being distracted or blinded by the sun is a serious problem for road users; research has shown that bright sunlight can create visual illusions and increase the risk of a life-threatening crash by 16%.

Studies have shown that the number of crashes was significantly higher during conditions of glare than those without glare, and low glare resulted in drivers exhibiting a significant decrease in the ability to detect simulated pedestrians along the roadside.

Here’s what I advise my patients who suffer from the glare caused by a low Sun.

Sunglasses do a good job of helping eyes to adjust to brighter lights. Sunglasses that feature polarised lenses, which help to defend against direct sunlight and glare, are most useful.

The visors mounted in the ceiling of the cabin space are designed to block out the sun with hindering vision. Visors reduce the amount of the light that enters the field of vision, and this helps the eyes to adjust better when a person drives into patches of shade. Some cars have visors which can be adjusted to block off sunlight from the right and left side windows as well as the front.

Dirty windscreens can really amplify glare, as the dirt scatters sunlight. I advise my patients to clean the outside and the inside of their windscreen. Most will have already cleaned the outside but many do not think about cleaning the inside. This gets dirty especially in cars that carry smokers.

Keep the windscreen washer fluid topped up and use it.

Take an alternative route that does not use an East facing road in the morning or a West facing road in the late afternoon

If struggling to see anything at all, pull over in a safe spot until the sun moves out of the line of sight or dips beyond the horizon.

Nobody wants a patient to be a data point in the road traffic accident statistics.



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