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Here comes the sun. That can pose a problem while driving.

March 20, 2024
Sun glare can make it more difficult to clearly see the road. Learn what you can do to keep yourself—and your workers—safe while behind the wheel.

As your teams drive to and from the jobsite each day, the sun will, at some point, shine into their eyes.

It’s annoying for workers as they navigate their course. But for employers, sun glare creates a higher liability risk by increasing the possibility, and severity, of accidents.

Peak sun glare season occurs when sunrise or sunset and rush hour coincide, and the sun hangs like a bright ball on the highway. It’s especially blinding for crews driving east in the morning and west in the afternoon.

For much of the U.S., peak sun glare season runs from mid-October to early March. This chart shows the seasonal sunrise and sunset times in New York with bands that highlight where those times and rush hour overlap. (See Figure 1, below).

Sun glare adds more aggravation and danger to everyone’s drive. Providing your teams with some basic knowledge, helping them with simple preparations and arming them with a few useful tools can help to protect them—and your fleet vehicles—while on the road.

Read on to learn about some of the common health and safety-related dangers of sun glare—and how you can minimize them to ensure a safe working environment.

What conditions affect sun glare?

Direct sun glare is worst when the sun hangs low because it lets the light shine directly into your eyes. At the same time, indirect sunlight can reflect blinding glare off windshields, chrome trim, buildings, water, snow, ice and even road signs.

How dangerous is sun glare?

Experts have analyzed large amounts of data to understand what causes accidents. Commonly known factors include driver awareness, driver behavior, inclement weather and road conditions. Another significant factor is sun glare.

According to one study on the influence of sun glare on driving safety, sun glare can be so intense that drivers cannot clearly see or react to traffic signals, sudden changes in road activity or dangerous conditions.

This loss of awareness increases the danger to drivers, pedestrians and other property on a jobsite, which can have a high mix of pedestrians and vehicles operating close together in confined areas.

How does sun glare affect drivers?

When jobsites have multiple buildings and many turns, there’s an increased risk of accidents and injuries caused by sun glare. Windows and glass on the side of buildings can cause the sun’s reflection to create a blinding glare, limiting a driver’s ability to see. When drivers go around a road curve or turn at an intersection, the position of the sun relative to them changes and increases the chance of glare from multiple angles.

This creates more risk because drivers have to look in at least two directions instead of focusing only on what’s in front of them. That splitting of attention makes it easier to miss something—or someone.

Blinding glare, or the distraction of ducking and flipping the vehicle’s sun visor to block it, creates an even higher chance of an accident. This is how sun glare can cause pedestrians to be struck by drivers who simply don’t see them.

Can sun glare cause car accidents?

There are over 9,000 vehicle accidents related to sun glare each year in the U.S., and the National Library of Medicine says that the risk of that accident being life-threatening is 16% higher with bright sunlight than it is in normal weather conditions.

In many states, however, sun glare is not acceptable as a defense in an accident. It’s generally considered the responsibility of the driver and the fleet owner to take reasonable steps to mitigate the glare while driving.

Failure to do so may affect car insurance premiums and repair coverage. In addition, any accident involving a vehicle that occurs while on the job must be reported on a 300 log. Beyond any direct or indirect costs associated with an accident, OSHA recordable events can also affect premiums, a business’ safety record and potentially their ability to bid on work.

Can sun glare cause skin damage?

Most people are unaware of just how much time they spend behind the wheel. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that an average driver sits behind the wheel for about one hour daily. For those who drive for a living, that number is exponentially higher.Prolonged sun exposure during driving increases the risk of related health issues. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB), both of which can impact people’s eye and skin health.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that “unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects or mutations, that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging… UV rays that damage skin can also alter a gene that suppresses tumors, raising the risk of sun-damaged skin cells developing into skin cancer.”

What’s more, this skin damage risk is not even. UV exposure to drivers in the U.S. is five times greater to the left arm and 20 times greater to the left side of the face, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Can sun glare cause eye damage?

According to the National Eye Institute, “UV light more easily penetrates eye tissues than visible light, potentially increasing the risk of eye problems.” This can include cancers of the eye, eye growths, cataracts, macular degeneration and more. It can also raise the risk for eye diseases, such as photokeratitis, a preventable disease that causes severe eye pain, headaches and sensitivity to light, among other unpleasant and painful symptoms.

Severe exposure can cause glare sensitivity, “a debilitating loss of visual acuity in bright lighting... Patients suffering from glare sensitivity will be unable to see the separate contours of brightly lit objects, and their surroundings may merge into a ‘wall’ of bright white,” according to UCLA Health.

Are there ways I can reduce sun glare?

In addition to sun glare and weather conditions, the condition of a vehicle’s windshield contributes to visibility during sun glare season (and beyond). Dirt, cracks and condensation scatter light and can turn the windshield into a kaleidoscope of chaos.

Investing a few minutes in preventative maintenance can help to minimize these issues. Here are some solutions to consider:

  • Keep the windshield clean, both inside and out.
  • Check that windshield wipers are working properly and undergo regular maintenance.
  • Keep washer fluid full for a quick-cleaning option while on the road.
  • Take the vehicle to a local repair shop or seek out appropriate products to DIY any cracks in the windshield. Don’t enable more damage by ignoring the problem.
  • Run the defroster to equalize the temperature and simultaneously eliminate any interior fog or condensation.
  • Swap those expensive vinyl cleaners, which can leave a glossy finish, for vinegar. It slows buildup without residue or an over-the-top shine.


What other products can help minimize sun glare?

If you’re lucky, you can adjust routes or driving times to avoid the brunt of sun glare, but many workers don’t have that flexibility. However, there are some practical ways to help minimize the effects of sun glare while driving.

  • Tinting can be effective but check local rules and regulations first. The International Window Film Association provides an overview of tinting terms and the laws in each state.
  • Autovisors block the sun effectively with their solid, opaque shade. However, most vehicles have only one visor that can be flipped either to the front or side as needed. Adding a second, independent visor can help to block the sun from two directions at once and eliminate the distraction of flipping the visor back-and-forth when you turn. Some aftermarket solutions offer tinted polarized visor extensions for additional eye protection.
  • Sunglasses can also help to minimize sun glare, but they only protect the front of the face—not the side. Polarized sunglasses, according to Verywell Health, “are designed specifically to reduce glare so that you can see clearly in situations where you might otherwise squint or be blinded by reflected light.”


How can I help workers stay safe while driving in sun glare?

Here are some good reminders to share with workers on a regular basis:

  • Stay alert to pedestrians at all times, regardless of the time of day or season.
  • Use extra caution in adverse weather conditions and low-light situations.
  • Be extra careful when approaching crosswalks and rotaries, especially during sun glare season. Slow down, and always yield to pedestrians.
  • Adhere to speed limits in school zones, densely populated job sites and areas with heavy pedestrian activity.
  • Before reversing, survey the entire area around your vehicle to avoid accidents. Nearly half a million accidents occur annually due to vehicles reversing without proper checks.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and/or a state of extreme tiredness.

While managing sun glare for safer driving is important, there are other actions you can take to improve overall safety on job sites. OSHA’s guidelines for multiple environments—including construction sites, ports and warehouses—is broadly applicable to most other high mixed-traffic environments:

  • Focus on visibility, including good signage for vehicle and pedestrian interaction areas.
  • Provide high-visibility clothing to workers moving around on foot.
  • Offer safety-specific training for drivers who operate in these environments.

Without any action, the sun will keep shining, drivers will keep driving and accidents will continue to happen. However, equipped with knowledge and appropriate accessories to mitigate the dangers of sun glare, drivers can do a better job of keeping themselves—and those around them—safe. This is especially important when it comes to the workplace and regulations that surround it.

Safety professionals can ensure that they, and their teams, are safe behind the wheel identifying, learning about and implementing solutions that enhance driver visibility while minimizing risk of working in the sun.

Danny Johananoff is founder and president of SmartAdditions, Inc.a company that sells aftermarket solutions for a better driving experience.

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