Driving into the Sunset

Article By: Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com.

I always remember my mom talking about how romantic it is when a man and woman drive away into the sunset to end a movie. Although it may sound romantic, it can be quite difficult for the driver to see what’s ahead of them because of the glare. When you’re faced with this situation, it’s important to ensure you’re ready for it.

Most jurisdictions have a law that asks drivers to turn their headlights on half an hour before sunset and to keep them on half an hour after sunrise. This allows their eyes time to adjust to the gradual change of lighting. Even with our headlights on during those times it can be very difficult to see when the sun is beaming in your eyes. As drivers, we need to make adjustments in order to ensure we can reach our destination safely.

The first thing I suggest if you’re traveling toward the low sun is to ensure you’re wearing proper sunglasses. Since I wear corrective lenses I have prescription sunglasses which do the job perfectly. I once had a student who showed up to my car without sunglasses. Luckily, I had a spare pair in my glove box so I offered those to him for this lesson. After one look at these ten year old sunglasses, he said “It’s ok. I’ll squint”. Not the answer I was looking for. He was always prepared with his sunglasses after that day. Who really wants to look dorky wearing out of fashion sunglasses?

If the sun is directly in front of you, you should lower your sun visor. Lower it just enough to block the sun, but not too low as to reduce your visibility of traffic lights and road signs. Don’t forget the sun visor can also swivel to the side to block the sun from coming through your driver’s side window.

After a while, you’ll notice the sun drops below the visor, so what do you do? Put on a hat with a brim, such as a baseball hat. You can lower the brim enough to help you block the glare. That’s one of the reasons I always keep a baseball hat in the trunk of my car. If the sun gets too low for that to help, it would be a good idea to pull off the road for roughly 15 to 20 minutes until the sun has set behind buildings or trees. If you can’t see, you can’t drive.

A proactive way to ensure you can handle the setting or rising sun is to ensure your windows are always clean. I’m not only talking just about the outside, but also the inside. Using a glass cleaner on the inside of the windows is a proactive way to reduce that added glare during the early hours of the morning or in the early evenings.

Making these adjustments can now allow you to drive comfortably into the sunset. It may not be romantic but it’s at least safer.