Few people think of sunny weather as a hazardous condition, but there are cases where it can be. Every year, numerous accidents in Georgia happen because drivers are blinded by sunlight or sun glare. This can be very frustrating for everyone involved—the driver who was blinded feels like there was nothing they could do, and the victim worries that they will use the sun as an excuse to dodge liability. The reality is that the sun can almost never be used as an excuse in a car accident, even if it really was the cause. Instead, drivers are expected to take reasonable precautions not to be blinded by the sun.
How does sunlight or sun glare cause accidents?
There are three main ways you can find yourself blinded by the sun:
- The sun is directly in front of you as you drive, and the full sunlight blinds you.
- The sun is at an angle to your car, and water, dust or streaks on your windshield suddenly light up, making it hard to see.
- The sunlight reflects off of another surface, such as the dashboard or the road itself, creating glare and interfering with your visibility. (This is more common in northern climates where snow on the ground creates a reflective surface.)
Often, sun glare only happens for a few seconds, perhaps just as your car comes around a bend toward the sun. Even these few seconds of blindness are enough time to cause an accident.
What kinds of accidents does sunlight cause?
We have seen sunlight involved in:
- Car accidents where on or both drivers were blinded, especially rear end accidents.
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents, where a blinded driver could not see the person/bike in the street
- Single car accidents, where a blinded driver drifts and hits an object (such as a utility pole)
Most sunlight accidents happen in morning or late afternoon, when the sun is close to the horizon and thus shining straight at drivers. Unfortunately, rush hour creates the perfect conditions for sunlight glare accidents: lots of cars crowd the road at once just as the sun is in position to blind them. This is when the majority of these accidents happen.
Who is considered at fault in a sunlight accident?
The sun is not considered an excuse under the law, and it does not change who is at fault in an accident. If the accident was caused by a driver who was unable to see due to the sun, that driver will usually be held at fault—but not always.
Exceptions to this rule could include:
- The driver can prove that they exercised reasonable caution
- The other party involved broke some traffic rule, and would have share some or all of the fault even if no sun blinding had occurred
These exceptions are rare, and they may just mean fault is shared between both parties.
The reason sun glare is not an excuse is because the law expects all drivers to take basic precautions for weather conditions when driving. Just as it would be careless to drive at 65 mph in a heavy fog, it is also carless to get into a car on a sunny day and take no precautions against glare.
How could I have prevented sunlight glare?
There are several ways to minimize or prevent blinding glare. These include:
- Keeping your windshield free of dust or streaks, and cleaning it regularly
- Regularly wiping down your dashboard to prevent glare on dust
- Not choosing a route that drives directly into bright sunlight
- Wearing sunglasses, especially polarized glasses to reflect the glare away
Most of the time when sun glare happens it’s unexpected. If it does happen, remember that it may be affecting other drivers around you as well. Pull down your sun visor immediately and be on the lookout for vehicles or pedestrians as you slow down—it may be best to pull over and look for your sunglasses.
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