Staying safe in the sunshine

 Published 20th July 2018
Driver Guides 

In case you hadn't noticed, it's been a bit warm of late. In fact, in UK terms it's fair to say this summer has been distinctly, gloriously, un-British. Which makes a pleasant change, but does bring issues all of its own.

Mile after mile of stationary greenhouses, otherwise known as cars, every time the road network fails to keep up with the volume of traffic. Sweaty and disgruntled drivers whose air conditioning isn't what it was when new. Superheated leather seats and matching steering wheels. Electronic devices switching themselves off in a desperate attempt to cool down. The list of discomforts and inconveniences a lengthy spell of sunshine can bring is almost endless.

In all honesty these are minor considerations though. Yes, you might get stuck in traffic - and your smartphone may temporarily shut down just when you need the satnav most - but carry an old fashioned map for emergency use and you can at least try to extract yourself from the worst of the traffic. You can always chuck a few towels over the seats to keep your bottom rare instead of well done. Carry lots of water, a few snacks, a phone charger, take regular breaks, all of this is common sense.

Yet the biggest danger, the one that is often a major factor in summer accidents, is that big ball of burning gas that gets right in your eyes at the worst possible moment.

A glaring sun can be a huge distraction that can effectively blind you for those few seconds it takes to spot the upcoming bend, or the parked car ahead. Whether it's reflecting off something shiny; flashing through the trees alternately dazzling you then plunging you into deep shadow; or being low enough to shine directly into your face on the way to and from work, the sun can be a serious hazard at this time of year.

Fortunately you aren't completely helpless. There's nothing you can do to alter the laws of gravity so the sun is going nowhere, but you can take steps to minimise the danger and ensure you remain as safe as possible on your summer journeys.

  • Keep your windscreen clean inside and out. A dirty screen will magnify the glare, a clean one won't.

  • Check for chips and cracks that can scatter sunlight and increase glare. Make sure your windscreen wipers are in good condition and the washer bottles topped up with quality screen wash to remove baked-on insects.

  • Keep a cloth or chamois to wipe away the dirt and dust that builds up on the inside of the windows.

  • Use your sun visor. It may sound pretty obvious but a surprising number of people forget it's not actually there to check their make-up or the efficiency of the morning shave.

  • Invest in polarised sunglasses. Your eyes will quickly become strained if you are constantly squinting into the sun. The clever coatings on polarising glasses redirect the light and drastically reduce glare.

  • If you are dazzled by the sun, slow down and leave extra space between yourself and the driver ahead. Harsh glare can have the same effect on your ability to see ahead as fog or heavy rain. Reducing your speed will give you more time to assess the road ahead and react accordingly.

  • Remember that the glare affects everyone in the same way. When the sun is low behind you, you might be able to see just fine, but oncoming drivers are facing into it and might not see you. Keep an eye on oncoming traffic and allow them as much room as possible, just in case.

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