means more problems
By Mike Branom,
East Valley Tribune
September 29, 2005
early morning sun during the equinox season can create a glare that
has the potential to make rush hour even more dangerous than usual.
Toru Kawana, Tribune
being blinded by the light. The Earth’s orbit around the sun and the
compass-points layout of the Valley’s road system combine during the
fall and spring equinox seasons to make rush hour even more dangerous
People who drive east from their homes to their jobs now are challenged
twice daily to make out traffic signals, signs, pedestrians and other
vehicles against a backdrop of dazzling sunshine.
The results can be fatal.
Last week, in a span of less than 14 hours, there were two collisions in
Mesa in which a driver looking into the sun ran a red light. On Friday
evening, the victim was a 14-year-old boy walking home from football
practice; the next morning at a different intersection, a 51-year-old
Gilbert man died when his vehicle was struck by a pickup.
Authorities blame the drivers, rather than the sun. But experts know
glare can be a factor.
"In Arizona the sun is very bright, and if you’re not paying
attention you can miss somebody because of it," said Paul Hallums,
president and CEO of the National Traffic Safety Institute in Tucson.
"It does interfere here substantially more than in other
Unknown is exactly how much of a factor the sun is in crashes.
"It makes perfect common sense," said Linda Gorman,
spokeswoman for Mesa’s transportation division. "But we just
can’t prove it."
At least one expert who has studied the sun’s effects knows what
Valley motorists face every September and March. Ralph
Bouwmeester has made a business of advising builders where to place
sun decks, windows and gardens. He also helps attorneys defend drivers
who claim they were temporarily blinded by glare.
Angela Cruz ran the red light on Longmore, striking Sean Casey as he
walked across Baseline Road around 5:30 p.m. Friday.
computer re-creation places the sun within 7 degrees of straight ahead
and 10 degrees up from the horizon. Translated to a 2-foot distance from
Cruz’s eyes to the windshield of her Chevrolet Caprice, the sun was
slightly less than 3 inches to left of straight ahead and 4 1 /2 inches
up from the road.
were even worse at 7 a.m. Saturday when Antonio Hernandez ran a red
light at Val Vista Drive on the eastbound off-ramp of U.S. 60. Hernandez
was looking at a sun that was 6 degrees to the right of center and 8
degrees up from the horizon. He hit three vehicles, killing Lawrence
"It’s this time of year that is crucial," said Bouwmeester,
whose Web site is http://www.sunposition.com/.
Some advice: Motorists aren’t helpless against the sun’s powerful
rays. Police offer these tips:
• Slow down.
If you can’t see well, give yourself more time to react.
• Don’t drive with a dirty, cracked or pitted windshield.
• Wear sunglasses. The more protection for your eyes, the better.
• Keep your sun visor clear of excess objects. "A lot of people
put a lot of stuff up in their visors," said Arizona Department of
Public Safety Sgt. Kevin Jex. "So, when they deploy the visor,
they’re distracted by a bunch of papers falling in their laps."
through the glare
What is an equinox?
As we move toward fall the nights have grown longer and the days
shorter. At the equinox, the day and night are equally 12 hours long.
How it affects the Valley:
1 Valley roads
are built on a grid system that aligns directly north/south and
2 Because the sun is aligned with the equator during the equinox it
rises in line with eastern roads and sets in line with roads in the
3 The atmosphere acts as a magnifying glass on the light hitting the
Earth. The sun appears largest at sunrise and sunset because it is
traveling though the largest distance of atmosphere.
Montana State University; Tribune research Andrew Long/TRIBUNE
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