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Drivers ... Beware, stay clear of the sun’s glare

Published:Sunday | August 15, 2021 | 12:05 AMBy Paul Glenroy Messam -

The glare of the sun, on bright mornings, can be uncomfortable and unsafe for drivers on the Jamaican roads. As motorists, our sense of sight is vital for defensive driving. When our eyes meet the glare accidentally, the union creates havoc for safe driving. The term ‘glare’, according to the Oxford Pocket Dictionary means ‘shine, dazzling, or oppressively; a strong fierce light, and tawdry brilliance’.

According to John Brenn, driving into the glare of sunlight is like meeting a wall of light. “I have to slow down and look out for the pedestrians like shadows or silhouettes against the light.” Journeys that also have oustanding glare are; Highway 2000, from Kingston to St Ann; leaving the stoplight at Cooreville Gardens, the early morning light while travelling through Liguanea up to Papine, and the afternoon glare from Papine to Liguanea.

“Defensive driving is driving to save lives, time and money,” says Lurkent Hanson, senior instructor at the Advanced Driver Training Centre (ADTC). We all use the senses of hearing and seeing when we operate a motor vehicle. In fact, we obtain almost all our in-car driving information through what we see. “We need to see clearly and quickly to be a good driver,” says Dr Hame Persaud. The eyes move rapidly, making an average of three to five stops per second; the stops are called fixations and we see only through these fixations.

According to Dr Persaud, the brain directs our eyes to focus rapidly on objects and events in our path. Messages are sent back to the brain to be used along with stored information to help us identify hazards, predict conflicts and decide how to execute our diving manoeuvres. Drivers of motor vehicles, pickups, buses or heavy duty vehicles will, at some time, experience some degree of glare at different locations across the island.

Driver should refrain from looking directly at the glare. Also, a bright sun behind one’s car may make it impossible to see the turn-signal lights and brake light on the car ahead. At night, glare occurs when we look directly at bright lights or shiny surfaces that reflect bright lights. Glare resistance means the ability to continue seeing when looking at bright surfaces or lights, and this differs greatly from person to person.

Dr Persaud explains that the pupils of the eyes are open wide at night to let in light. When the eyes are suddenly exposed to bright light, the pupils become smaller to protect the eyes. Temporary blindness may result before the pupils become larger; again after bright lights pass. The time required to regain clear vision after being impaired by glare is called ‘glare recovery’. Often pupils take five to 10 seconds to open fully. At 40 mph, one’s car will travel almost 300 feet in five seconds. Bear in mind that headlights turn toward us at intersections, and bright lights appear from over hills and around corners.

Constable Matthew Brown, of Constant Spring Traffic, advises all motorists to drive carefully and defensively on encounter with glare, and expect glare situations and glance away. Also:

1. If you are impaired by glare, slow or stop until you regain clear vision.

2. Wear sunglasses and use your car’s sun visor in bright sunlight.

3. “I use transition lenses, it helps to protect the glare from my eyes,” says Marlene Barnes, from Texas, USA. “It would be difficult to see while driving without them, especially in the summer”.

4. Remember that the red light is at the top. If the lights are horizontal, the red is on the left. (For colour blind motorists.)