“Blinded By The Light”- Car Accidents Caused By Sun Glare
As we begin to head into our snowy season here in New England bad weather is sure to cause more car accidents. But studies show, sunny days can be even more hazardous. One recent study has shown that serious car accidents increase by 16% when it's very sunny and glare is present. Another study has shown that as many as 9000 accidents relating to sun glare occur each year! That’s more than caused by icy roads.
We have all driven on beautiful sunny days in the winter either in the morning or later in the day and noticed the blinding effect of the sun as we drive. Early mornings heading east, or late in the day heading west and sun glare can be blinding. Whether traveling at high speed on the highway or slowly through a busy intersection, becoming temporarily blinded by the sun is terrifying. Unfortunately, we see many accidents each year where someone was injured because of sun glare. In fact, we handled a very serious case where sun glare was the central issue and the main defense by the driver. On a July morning at 7:00 am our client was crossing a street in Beverly, Ma. and was three quarters of the way across the roadway when she was struck by a car. The driver claimed sun glare prevented him from seeing our client. It was a hard-fought case, but we were able to show that the driver was negligent and got our client’s case settled.
Safe driving requires clear vision and an unobstructed view but what are we to do when confronted with the unavoidable glare of the sun? Well to begin with we all should be aware of this common risk of sun glare and prepare accordingly. Here are some common-sense precautions that we all must take:
- Slow WAY down: Your best move when driving through a sun glare is to slow down. When you can’t see you don’t have ability to react quickly, so going slower will help you avoid an accident. Slow down to the speed you would drive if you were in a pouring rain, a blizzard or driving through thick fog.
- Put more distance between you and other cars: When visibility is terrible it’s critical to stay a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Remember, if you can’t see, then the person in front of you probably can’t see either and may end up braking abruptly.
- Wear or have available polarized sunglasses: Keep a pair of polarized sunglasses in your car. They work great and will help you reduce the sun glare. Polarized sunglasses are made with a special filter in the lens that can block intensely reflected light. They’re particularly effective while driving through snowy or wet areas where sun glare is the most extreme.
- Keep your windshield clean: Dirty windows scatter light making it even more difficult to see when the sun is directly in front of you. Before you head out, make sure the windows are clean inside and out. Keep a roll of paper towels in the car so you can wipe the windshield down if needed on your drive.
- Have your wiper fluid filled before you head out: Also, keep an extra gallon of washer fluid in your car in case you run out during your time driving. Pulling over to refill an empty reservoir could be a life saver.
- Take an alternate route to avoid driving directly into the sun: Let’s face it, many of us drive the same routes every day. We know when sun glare is likely to be an issue. Routes that run north or south will keep you from traveling directly into the sun. Routes that are surrounded by tall buildings or trees can also help block sun glare. Another less convenient option is to adjust your schedule, so you avoid times when sun glare is at its worse, which is usually an hour before sunset and an hour after sunrise.
- Keep your headlights on;
- Make sure your sun visor works.
So who is at fault for an accident caused by sun glare?
The most likely answer is the person who was blinded and caused the accident. Obviously, each case is fact specific but being blinded by the sun doesn't excuse us from liability if an accident occurs. It may seem like a great defense to a car accident since how can you blame someone if they can't see?
In Massachusetts there is no law that excuses someone from an accident simply because of sun glare. Even though it may have been the primary cause of the accident everyone driving a car has a legal duty to exercise due care no matter what the weather conditions are. Due care may require you to behave differently under different conditions. For example, if the roads are icy, due care might mean driving very slowly. If the sun is in your eyes, due care most certainly requires having a means of dealing with this inevitable and predictable condition.
The law assumes that we all understand that sunlight may get in our eyes and affect our ability to see but the law requires us to take reasonable precautions to avoid such accidents. Evidence of an emergency such as temporary sun glare does not legally require application of a different standard of care under our laws.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident involving sun glare, you deserve to speak with a lawyer who has the experience to get the compensation that you deserve. Here at Spada Law Group, our personal injury attorneys and case managers have experience working in the insurance industry, which gives us a truly unique advantage when fighting on your behalf.
With offices in Chelsea and Salem, MA, (and a satellite office in Worcester) Spada Law Group provides Boston quality legal representation without the commute into the city with free on-premises or validated parking. We are here to answer any questions you may have. Call Spada Law Group today at 617-889-5000 to discuss your situation. The consultation is free and there is absolutely no obligation to hire us. We are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.