Sunrise and sunset are two of the most dangerous times to be behind the wheel because the driver's view and vision are compromised. It's due to the fact that the light sky prevents a driver's eyes from adjusting to the dark roadway, which makes it very challenging to see pedestrians, cyclists and even other vehicles.
In fact, experts say 90% of the information we need to drive a vehicle is gathered through the eyes.
Many fleet drivers have no choice about driving at dawn or dusk because it's part of the job. Here is some valuable advice from AAA and other experts about best practices for safe driving at sunrise and sunset:
Polish your headlights: Regularly wiping away dirt will ensure clarity when you need it most.
Clean your windshield inside and outside: Dirt, dust and road grime on a windshield can refract light, creating glare. Glare can greatly reduce your ability to see the road at dawn and dusk when your eyes are struggling to cope with the lighting conditions.
Drive with your headlights on: This increases your visibility to other drivers. Avoid high beams to prevent blinding oncoming traffic.
Turn down your dash lights: Bright dash lights may make it easier to read gauges, but they also further detract from your eyes' ability to see a darkened dusk, dawn or nighttime roadway.
Wear sunglasses judiciously: If the sun is directly in your eyes, put on sunglasses. Otherwise leave them off at dawn and dusk—they reduce the already limited light reaching your eyes at these hours.
Utilize your sun visor and lane markings: The visor can help to block out the sun. You can also use lane markings as a guide when sun glare is reducing visibility.
Get back on track: If you're blinded by oncoming traffic, look toward the left edge of the road and steer along its path until you can see clearly again.
Reduce your speed: This helps compensate for reduced visibility. Slowing your speed will allow more time and space to respond in an emergency.
Increase your following distance: The less light there is in the sky, the longer it takes drivers to identify and react to potential dangers. To stay safe, drop farther back from the car ahead of you.
Minimize distractions: Driving at dawn and dusk requires your full concentration. Don't make it more challenging by fiddling with the radio or drinking a coffee while behind the wheel.
Be alert to drowsy driving: At dusk, our brains start to release melatonin, a light-sensitive hormone that causes sleepiness. If a car near you seems to be having trouble staying in its lane or maintaining its speed, the driver might be drowsy. What's more, if you're feeling drowsy behind the wheel, make frequent stops to get some fresh air and stretch your legs.
Choose routes that are not directly in the sun: Fleet drivers may not always have a choice, but if possible, avoid travelling east at dawn and west at dusk.
To learn more about safely driving at dawn and dusk, watch the video from Smart Test Drive here.