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Don’t be blinded by sun-strike this winter

30 April 2014

Don’t be blinded by sun-strike this winter

May is the worst month of the year for road crashes due to drivers being blinded by sun-strike.

Sun-strike is when the angle of sunlight hitting a windscreen creates glare that is very hard for a driver to see through. The problem is worst on winter mornings and afternoons, when the sun is low in the sky, and the AA and Specsavers are wanting to help make more drivers aware of the risks.

“Sun-strike may seem like it’s just a minor annoyance when you’re driving but every year we have about 2 people killed and 200 people injured in crashes where the driver was blinded by dazzling sunlight,” says AA Motoring Affairs General Manager Mike Noon.

“May is the highest risk month and from now through to August is when drivers need to be extra careful.”

The most common types of crashes involving sun-strike are people pulling out from a side-street or driveway into the path of another vehicle they did not see, or rear-ending a vehicle that had stopped.

Sun-strike also adds risks for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists on the road, as they can more easily be hidden in the glare due to their smaller size.

“On sunny mornings and afternoons everyone needs to be extra cautious at intersections and not assume a driver has seen them. Even if you aren’t affected by sun-strike yourself other people may be struggling to see you,” says Mr Noon.

Specsavers recommends drivers wear polarised sunglasses in sunny conditions. “Polarised lenses let the right light in and keep bad light out, eliminating any distractions and impairments caused by reflections off shiny surfaces like vehicles, metal glass or water,” says Specsavers Optometrist Philip Walsh.

Certain parts of the country are more prone to sun-strike crashes, with Southland, Otago and Gisborne the top three in terms of risk.

AA tips for drivers to minimise sun-strike risks:
• Anticipate when it may happen and use your visors or sunglasses
• Go for polarised sunglasses as these are best at combating glare
• Drive with your headlights on so your vehicle is easier to see
• Keep your windscreen clean inside and out
• If you are hit by sun-strike, slow down and be extra cautious in your driving

Specsavers also reminds drivers to have an eye exam every two years to ensure they have optimum vision for all driving conditions. All AA members receive a free eye exam at Specsavers.

Sun-strike crash statistics

Deaths and injuries from crashes involving sun-strike

DeathsSerious injuriesMinor injuries

Regional sun-strike crashes 2009-2013

Total crashesCrashes per 10,000 population
Hawke’s Bay291.88
Bay of Plenty501.8
West Coast41.22

The New Zealand Automobile Association is an incorporated society with more than one million members. It represents the interests of road users who collectively pay more than $2 billion in taxes each year through fuels excise, road user charges and GST.


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