Sunstrike a serious threat to road users

The annual hazard of sunstrike has arrived, and the AA is sharing some safety tips for Otago drivers and other road users.

AA Otago District Council chairman Malcolm Budd said May and June were the worst months for drivers being suddenly blinded by the sun, as the sun was low in the horizon at peak traffic times in the morning and evening.

Last week, a crash attributed to sunstrike occurred on Dunedin’s Southern Motorway, at about 5pm.

There were a number of particularly risky locations around Dunedin, Mr Budd said.

Among them were the Southern Motorway at Lookout Point and Saddle Hill, where three crashes happened within 45 minutes of each other one day last year.

Within Dunedin city, motorists driving on Stuart St near Highgate need to be wary when travelling west in the morning or east in the late afternoon.

Another risky area is on Mailer St in Mornington late in the afternoon.

The AA has spoken to Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Dunedin City Council about erecting sunstrike warning signs on the Southern Motorway at Saddle Hill and Lookout Point.

It was unfortunate signs had not gone up yet, but Waka Kotahi had agreed it was a good idea and signs were ‘‘in the pipeline’’, Mr Budd said.

“In the meantime, drivers need to be extra cautious and take preventive measures.

‘‘Keep your windscreen clean inside and out, have sunglasses (ideally polarised) to hand, and make sure your sun visor is working for when you suddenly need it.”

Sunstrike causes motorists to slow down near Saddle  Hill on the Southern Motorway.  PHOTO:...
Sunstrike causes motorists to slow down near Saddle Hill on the Southern Motorway. PHOTO: LOUISE FRAMPTON

Minimising sunstrike 

• Anticipate when it may happen and use your vehicle’s sun visors or have sunglasses handy. Polarised sunglasses are much more effective at combating sunstrike.

• Drive with your headlights on so your vehicle is easier to see.

• Keep your windscreen clean inside and out.

• If you are hit by sunstrike, slow down and be extra cautious in your driving.

• Beware that other road users might be affected by sunstrike although you may not be at that moment.   

Sunstrike crash facts

• The most common types of sunstrike-related crashes are people pulling out from a side-street or driveway into the path of another vehicle they did not see, or rear-ending a vehicle that has stopped.

• Even if you aren’t affected by sunstrike yourself, other people may be struggling to see you, so be extra cautious at intersections and increase your following distance.

• While people think of driving in fog or snow as risky, sunstrike is a factor in more crashes than either.

• Across New Zealand, in the past four years (2016-2020), sunstrike has been a cause in 14 road deaths, 133 serious injuries and 568 minor injuries.

• On average, 3 people die each year and another 27 are seriously injured because of sunstrike.


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