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Car Blinded by the light

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It wont have escaped your notice that the clocks went back last weekend which means that, for the next few weeks, rush-hour drivers will have to contend with the dazzle of the low sun, both in the morning and evening.

According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) being dazzled by glare from the sun is more hazardous for drivers than driving at night or in bad weather. Latest government figures show that glare from the sun was the cause of 2,684 crashes in which someone was injured during 2009 as many as those caused by headlamp dazzle and bad weather combined.

As the IAM points out, we cant change the position of the sun, or the need to travel at certain times, but there are simple steps that you can take to ensure youre prepared for these conditions.

For a start, make sure that you keep your windscreen clean, both inside and out. Wet roads add dirt and scratches to the outside of the screen and its no use leaving it to your wipers and screenwash to clear it all off. You also need to regularly clean all the accumulated dirt and grime from the area which the wipers dont cover. This is where youre most likely to get glare from the sun affecting your vision.

And dont neglect the inside either. When you demist your windscreen, your heater blows traffic fumes, together with suspended oil and smoke particles onto the inside of the screen, so carefully and regularly clean this as well.

Dirty windscreens add to the danger when the sun is low. If you cant see, slow down accordingly, keeping an eye on the traffic behind, in case the following vehicle doesnt see you against the sun.

Findings have also shown that dazzlefrom headlamps causes more injury-inducing crashes than mobile phone use.

The IAMs advice is to always dip your headlights when another car is approaching and, if someone is coming towards you on main beam, look away to the left of your side of the road, to avoid the temporary blindness caused by dazzle.

Another thing to beware of is the poor state of some roads after last winter. Being dazzled by a low sun or oncoming headlamps means that you might not see a pothole or a patch of wet leaves in the road. Hitting wet leaves can be as dangerous as running into standing water, when lower grip can reduce braking and steering, while hitting a large pothole can damage your tyres or even knock your steering out of alignment.

Its impossible to avoid all the hazards of the road, but if the more you are aware of them and the more precautions you take to avoid them, the lesser the risk.