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beware of sun's glare
'The sun was in my eyes' is not an excuse, police say
REGISTER STAFF WRITER
re-printed from the "Des Moines Register" September 16, 2004
The "Des Moines Register" is hereby acknowledged for the content.
Copyright © 2004, The Des Moines Register.
your eyes: That early-morning and late-afternoon sun can be
Wear sunglasses and use your visor, police advise.
Turn a corner and it blinds you. Top a hill and it's worse.
Ignore precautions and it could kill you.
This is the time of year when the sun's glare is particularly dangerous
for drivers and pedestrians. (See
"For two or three weeks before and after September 4 and
April 6, the early-morning and late-afternoon sun is lining up closely
with Iowa's east-west streets," said Ralph Bouwmeester, a Canadian
safety consultant and recognized expert on sun, shadows and the optical
tricks they play on motorists.
Des Moines lawyer Sam Waters is also an expert on road glare. He
learned the hard way.
"Our accident occurred December 26, 1999," he said, describing a sunny
Sunday morning walk in Beaverdale with his wife, Elizabeth.
A driver, blinded by the sun, struck the couple.
"I flew onto the hood and did a somersault in the air and ended up 35
feet away," Waters said. "My wife hit the windshield, but didn't go
Both had knee surgery and have since recovered.
Theirs was far from an isolated incident:
• Sept. 9, 2003: Authorities said glare might have been a factor in a
crash north of Des Moines that killed a Pleasant Hill man.
• Aug. 27, 2003: Two people on a motorcycle died on the
city's east side in a collision with an oncoming van whose driver
blamed early-morning glare.
• Sept. 15, 2000: A 13-year-old boy was struck by a car but
escaped serious injury on his way to school. The driver said the sun
made it impossible to see the teen.
• Sept. 15, 1999: A truck loaded with jet fuel veered off
Interstate Highway 80 west of Des Moines. The driver blamed the sun.
• Sept. 10, 1997: Authorities blamed a blinding rush-hour
sun for two traffic accidents that injured an 11-year-old girl and the
police officer sent to investigate.
• Sept. 16, 1993 : The sun was listed on reports as a
contributing factor in several accidents, including a car-pedestrian
accident that killed a Windsor Heights woman.
Thousands of accidents each year are blamed on road glare.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attributed 168
deaths to blinded drivers in 2002, the lowest total in four years.
The problem is the autumnal equinox. The
23-degree tilt of Earth's axis places the sun on the horizon for
eastbound traffic during morning rush hour. The tilt is what creates
It also can create highway havoc.
"A major insurance company sponsored a study a
few years ago that attributed this to driver fatigue resulting from the
affect of the time change on the body clock," Bouwmeester said. "I
would suggest that the cause may be linked to the fact that the sun
appears lower on one's drive home from work."
The problem is at its worst the first hour after
sunrise and the last hour before sunset.
"The sun was in my eyes" is no excuse for an
accident, said Des Moines Police Sgt. David Coy.
"Wear sunglasses, use your visor, delay your trip
until the sun is higher in the sky," he said.
That means put down the cell phone and leave the
radio dial where it is.
"Get all of that out of the way before you start
driving, because you may need one hand to block the sun while you keep
the other on the wheel," Coy said.
Ralph Bouwmeester, P. Eng.
R. Bouwmeester & Associates
Barrie, Ontario Canada
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