7 Ways the Sun Affects Our Driving


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By Grace Hickman

on Tuesday 10 July 2018


Sun glare in front of car

In February, the Beast from the East blasted us with snow and ice, which left potholes everywhere and caused a number of serious road traffic accidents. Now, it's gone from one extreme to the other, as we're trying to stay cool in this glorious, yet never-ending, heatwave.

The UK's summer has a reputation of blowing hot and cold. A hot spell may pay us a visit now and again, but it’s usually short-lived. Not this year.

The heatwave seemed to be one of the best things to happen this year - it kicked-off our summer and got us working on that base tan.

Now, weeks on, it’s provoking one of two moods:

Either "To the beach!"

Or "It’s unbearable. I can’t breathe or do anything! When will it end?!"

Whether yours is the first, the latter or a bit of both, the sun and heat are affecting our daily routines in more ways than one.

Let's take a look at how our driving is affected by these sweltering summer days.

Driving in the Sun

We may assume that driving in this weather is safer than in winter, but that isn’t quite the case.

The UK actually has a higher accident-rate – both serious and fatal. In the summer of 2015, there were 6,290 accidents, whereas between January and March 2016, there were 5,890.

The RAC even state that during a heatwave, they see a 20%-30% increase in call-outs.

So why is driving in the summer worse?

7 Dangers of Driving in Summer

1. Fatigue

We all feel that extra bit tired when the temperature increases or becomes unbearable. Hay-fever is also at its peak during the summer months, which, if you suffer from it, can make you drowsy.

According to THINK!, sleep-related accidents cause more fatalities or serious injuries than other causes.

Feeling tired or sleepy while you’re driving has a serious impact on your reaction time and stopping distance, as well as your attention span and sense of judgment - all of which can cause a car accident or worse.

Tips:
  • Never drive a vehicle if you’re feeling over-tired or you have heat exhaustion.
  • If you have a long journey ahead of you, take plenty of breaks and rest every hour to two hours for at least 15 minutes.
  • The nights can still be stuffy, so avoid driving late at night when you will already be getting tired after the day anyway.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Keep the car as cool as you feel is comfortable.

2. Dehydration

We tend to think that drink-driving is one of the worst things you can do. However, a study by Loughborough University in 2015 showed that even being mildly dehydrated is the same as being over the limit when it comes to making driving errors and causing accidents.

Being dehydrated also makes us feel sleepy and has similar side effects to heat exhaustion – our reaction times are slower, we can become easily distracted and a lack of water can make our muscles cramp up. Again, all of this increases the chance of having a fatal accident.

Tips:
  • As well as drinking water regularly (around 8-10 glasses a day), you can eat hydrating foods like fruit, salad greens, cucumber, and yoghurt. Even a fizzy drink, milk or tea/coffee will help, but bear in mind that this is a short-term solution - you should be trying to get around eight-hours' sleep each night. 

3. Sun Glare in Cars

The glare from the sun is especially bright and harsh early in the morning and evening – the most popular times for drivers.

Even if the sun is blinding, many drivers tend to power through – seriously increasing the risk of a summer accident.

Tips:
  • Wear polarised sunglasses and use the sun visor.
  • If possible, avoid driving on roads that mean you’re directly facing the sun.
  • Plan your journey for when the glare isn’t at its strongest.
  • Reduce your speed and allow more space between you and the car in front.
  • Keep your windscreen clean.
  • Keep an eye on the road lines to stay in your marked lane.

4. More Pedestrians, Cyclists, Motorbikes, and Drivers

The sun always brings more people out and this usually results in more traffic, so the risk of having an accident is much higher in the summer.

More traffic, plus the heat, can heighten stress and drivers can become agitated, so more reckless driving will further increase this risk.

With more social events and gatherings taking place this time of year, there may also be a higher number of drunk drivers on the roads.

Tips:
  • Before starting your journey, be aware of any events going on near you so you can plan ahead.
  • Remember that the school holidays will make the roads busier.
  • Leave in plenty of time and keep the car cool so that you don’t get stressed by more traffic.
  • Reduce your speed if there are people about and regularly check mirrors and blind spots when turning to keep an eye out for any pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists.

5. More Wear and Tear

The heat can have a serious impact on how your car performs - it increases the risk of vehicle parts failing to work (like an over-heated battery) and your vehicle breaking down.

If the tyres are a bit worn down because of general use, hot weather can cause the tyres to swell, as the air inside expands.

Problems with the engine may also occur because of the heat. The older the car, the higher the risks may be – it can be dangerous for those inside and outside the vehicle if something malfunctions while driving.

Tips:
  • Try to regularly check things like the oil, engine and tyres to make sure they’re looking okay. If you’re not sure, get an expert to look for you – Halfords do a free summer check, as well as other checks for your car.
  • If you feel there may be something wrong with your car, pull over as soon as possible and as safely as you can - then call for assistance.
  • If you think your car may be over-heating during a long journey, be sure to take breaks to allow the car to cool down.
  • If possible, try to park in the shade.

6. More Young Drivers

There are more teenagers out and about during the evenings and school holidays in the summer, as they head out to the beach or just fancy a cruise in the sun.

Younger drivers are less experienced and have a higher chance of being involved in a collision more than older drivers. With more time off during the summer, there are more inexperienced drivers out on the roads for longer periods.

Tip:
  • Be extra vigilant during evenings, weekends and the summer holidays.

7. Construction Work

Warmer weather and longer days tend to mean more construction work. This leads to lane closures, diversions, changes in speed, more traffic, new road signs and many workers will be close to moving traffic.

In other words, there are many more distractions than usual.

Tips:
  • When you notice new road signs, slow down to give yourself enough time to read them and understand what’s going on.
  • Be extra cautious and watch out for any workers that may be near the road.

 

By taking all the necessary precautions before and during your car journeys this summer, you will avoid being involved in any unfortunate situations.

Having said this, if you have experienced a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault or if you need a replacement car after a non-fault collision, contact us today at Non Fault Claims to see how we can help you.

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