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Drivers warned over the danger of low winter sun

A warning is being sounded to motorists and other road users over the dangers posed by dazzling low winter sun.

Drivers can find themselves temporarily blinded by the seasonal glare, putting themselves and others at risk.

Cleveland Road Safety Partnership is urging drivers to be prepared for conditions believed to have caused one fatality and left 148 people injured - 29 seriously - over the last four years.

Most of those injured were car occupants, but many were also cyclists and pedestrians, with all age groups affected.

Incidents commonly happen around junctions in urban areas, when the sun is low in the sky and particularly after it has rained and the road surface is wet and more reflective.

Driving in winter often means having to contend with the sun starting to rise or set at peak commuting times, blinding drivers as they navigate already hazardous road conditions.

Being distracted or blinded by the sun is a serious problem for road users but there are simple steps that can help:

  • Have sunglasses handy in the vehicle - polarised lenses are best as they will help with glare as well as direct sunlight.
  • Use the visor - visors are designed to block out the sun without hindering vision. They also reduce the amount of the light that enters the field of vision, which helps the eyes adjust better when entering patches of shade. Consider using the visor even if the sun isn't directly in the eyes.
  • Keep the washer bottle topped up and clean the windscreen before setting off - dirty windscreens can really amplify glares, as the dirt scatters sunlight.
  • Slow down and double the distance to the vehicles in front, to give extra time to adjust to sudden stops or erratic driving from other road users in bright and low sunlight.
  • Take extra care at junctions or moving out - a second look could be a life-saver.
  • If walking or on two wheels take extra care to ensure visibility.

Andy Corcoran, Chair of the Cleveland Road Safety Partnership, said: "It may seem blindingly obvious, but low sun can be a particularly severe hazard at this time of the year, particularly if the roads are wet or icy.

"However, by taking a few simple steps, drivers can significantly reduce their chances of being involved in a collision - and, by doing so, help to make our roads safer for everyone."

Steve Johnson, Senior Head of Prevention at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: "We are asking all road users to think about the risks posed by low sun when using the road so they don't get caught out and be suddenly blinded as the consequences could be fatal.

"Prepare for these added challenges whether you are on foot, two wheels or driving a motor vehicle.

"Adjust your speed accordingly and be vigilant for other road users whose presence may be obscured by the sun." 

Councillor Eric Polano, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Regeneration, said: "The weather's glorious at the moment, but that can bring with it unexpected hazards.

"Anyone who drives will have been dazzled by a low winter sun, and it can be quite disconcerting.

"Just following a few simple steps can help you stay safe, as well as protecting those around you."