04 October 2022
More traffic on the roads after lockdown helped cut fatalities where sun dazzle was a contributory factor. Deaths dropped from 41 in 2020 to 19 last year. However, the number of severe road casualties (KSIs – killed and seriously injured) barely dipped, from 496 in 2020 to 491 in 2021, according to the latest Department for Transport statistics*.
The return of traffic to UK roads, while putting more vehicles back on the road, likely reduced the lethality of incidents by slowing traffic speeds and making road users more wary of encountering others and vehicles. The return to work and school last year would also have reduced the number of vulnerable road users exercising during the day and therefore chances of a deadly collision, the AA concludes.
However, although a blinding sun is a contributory cause of fewer road casualties (3,900 to 4,000 each year between 2012 and 2014, now down to 2,397 in 2020 and 2,369 in 2021), it is still a factor for 3% or one in 33 road casualties. That has barely changed over the last 10 years.
Glare, when the sun is low in the sky, is more likely to be a problem at this time of year.
With sunset moving into the rush-hour period, the AA is warning drivers to be equipped and alert to how they might respond if suddenly blinded by low sun. Above all, if drivers are unsure that the road ahead is clear, they should slow down. Not only does it give more time to spot and avoid unexpected pedestrians and cyclists but also other vehicles in front may slow down significantly.
Sean Sidley, AA Patrol of the Year says: “Glare, when the sun is low in the sky, is more likely to be a problem at this time of year. Always keep sunglasses within easy reach when driving. You may need to use the sun visors, so keep them free from objects such as fuel receipts, other documents or even CDs as these could cause a distraction if they drop when the visors are lowered.
“As the sun sets in the west, drivers on the east coast, in places like Newcastle upon Tyne, stand a higher chance of being dazzled as more early evening rush-hour trips are likely to be heading west, and away from the coast. If the sun is behind you, bear in mind that the drivers coming toward you may be affected by the sun. Using your headlights will help other drivers to see you. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and adjust your speed to suit the road conditions.
“Keep your car’s windscreen clean, both inside and outside to help reduce glare. Replace worn wiper blades and use a good quality screen wash that contains anti-freeze as this can prevent damage to the washer pump when temperatures drop heading into autumn.”
* RAS0701: Reported road collisions and casualties contributory factors by severity and road user type, Great Britain, ten years up to 2021