Driving Blind

They can’t see a thing, but they just keep driving. IMO, this is a product of our complacency about driving safety and low standards for personal responsibility.

A year ago, Laura Ann Ugolini was killed by a sun-blinded motorist in Umatilla, FL while riding her bike along the edge of CR 450.

Friday in Orlando. Approaching the opening of the new Amway Arena on Church Street, a sun-blinded motorist rear-ended two OPD horses ridden by volunteers. He told officers he didn’t see the horses because the sun’s glare was in his eyes and his visor was down.

Friday in Milwaukee, WI, a sun-blinded motorist hit two bicyclists. Cyclist Jeff Littmann, died yesterday from his injuries. Here’s the motorist’s statement:

“I was going under the speed limit, about 40 mph because it was very hard to see. I made sure to be in my lane because I couldn’t see oncoming traffic or anything much more but (estimate) 10 feet in front of me. I didn’t see anyone then all of a sudden boom I hit two bicyclists.”

The story says the cyclists were tracking near the white line. Be aware that a driver who can’t see ahead is more likely to instinctively steer toward the right edge of the road. That is not to say the cyclists would have been seen if riding farther left, that really depends on the exact conditions.

Nothing absolves a driver from the duty to exercise due care.

Despite lip-service about cell-phone use, it’s become culturally acceptable to not drive with due care. The majority mentality about stuff like this is that it’s just an unfortunate “accident” that could happen to anyone (because we all do it). When the majority identifies emotionally with the perpetrator, the victim has little hope for justice.

But we can avoid being victims.

Here’s your biannual defensive driving reminder about the low sun.

If you ride East in the morning and West in the evening, this is the time of year when the time and alignment of the sun is most likely to converge and create an overtaking hazard for you. If you ride the opposite direction, you need to be aware that crossing motorists may not see you. Mighk and I have both written longer posts about this:

The Blinding Sun: Check out the photo above. See the cyclist? I didn’t either while I was taking the photo!

Beware the Equinox: Some more strategies from Mighk.

Stay safe.

8 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Wow! There’s a cyclist there?

    This time of year is absolutely the best for cycling, as the temps are dropping and the air is dryer. It’s also the worst for the very reasons presented.

    How to be more visible? How to be brighter than the sun? That’s so difficult as to be nearly impossible.

    The only thing I can think of is rear facing strobes.

    I did see him, after close examination.

  2. Doohickie
    Doohickie says:

    I’ve been fortunate in that my commute always puts the on on my back. Cars behind me can see me. I would hate to have to ride into the sun and on those occasions where I have to do that, in scares the wits out of me.

    I found the cyclist only after downloading the pic and messing with the brightness.

  3. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    To me, this whole thing smells of police corruption. The perpetrator is a retired Orlando Police Department officer. His son is also an ex-OPD officer and current City Commissioner Sam Ings.

    Here in Ontario, the perpetrator would have been automatically charged with dangerous driving, since the victims are vulnerable road users. He would be looking at spending the next five years in jail.

    In Orlando, it is nice to have corrupt friends on the OPD to whitewash these sorts of things.

  4. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    While my commute also puts the sun on my back, I get VERY nervous about stopped motorists, in the late afternoon, on north-facing side streets along Bedford-Euless Road. I truly AM coming directly out of the sun for them down a hill, which puts the sun in their eyes even more. Whoever said cyclists should ride as if invisible has clearly never actually done so.

    Finding the cyclist was a snap. I simply right clicked the photo into a new tab and he showed up, conveniently Photoshopped and presented as an insert.

  5. LisaB
    LisaB says:

    As I’ve written before, this is a HUGE concern for me on my commute to work. But, my East-West routes are along four-lane roads, so I ride smack in the middle of the right lane (not right of the oil stain or in the right tire track) to maximize my visibility.

  6. AndrewP
    AndrewP says:

    Timely! I thought about yours and Mighk’s posts as I watched drivers squinting into the sun, visors down, hand in face, trying to determing if they could turn left at an intersection. If they have trouble seeing cars, you know they will have real trouble seeing a cyclist.

  7. mikeL
    mikeL says:

    Too many people don’t clean their windshields (inside and out), and don’t bother to wear sunglasses. Even a slight haze on the windshield will make the sun blind you. If you wear sunglasses, and have a clean windshield, then you have no problem, even without a visor. If you are still having problems seeing, then stay off the road – suggestion… join a carpool with someone that can see.

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