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Springtime sun glare hits Schriever commuters

A driver heads west on Falcon Parkway during a recent morning commute.

A driver heads east on Falcon Parkway during a recent morning commute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Christopher DeWitt)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Marketers for Colorado Springs' tourism industry often tout the area's 300-plus days of sunshine a year, but that sunshine isn't always a welcome sight for Schriever commuters.

It only takes a few commutes for drivers to figure out they must drive into sun glare every morning. And, unfortunately in the springtime, they get the same treatment on their way home.

"Many times, it can be like driving into a spotlight," said Master Sgt. Sarah Law, 50th Space Wing ground safety chief. "With the sun rising just above the horizon line, it becomes more than difficult for drivers to not only see others cars, but to even distinguish between red and green stop lights."

It can be funny to hear drivers say, "the sun was in my eye," but as many Schriever commuters can attest, sun glare is a very real hazard.

"We had a traffic crash on base just a few weeks ago where a driver said the glare was so harsh that she couldn't see another car," Law said. "The issue is especially important for Team Schriever members because of our location relative to residential areas. We have been discussing the topic at right start briefings and it's important to get the word out to the entire base about how drivers can mitigate this hazard."

The 50 SW Safety office recommends drivers take the following steps to combat sun glare and reduce hazards.

 Drive with headlights on
 Use polarized sunglasses
 Increase following distance behind cars ahead
 Utilize your car's sun visor
 Keep your windshield clean, inside and out
 Avoid storing papers or other items on your dashboard
 While experiencing heavy sun glare, use lane markings as a guide

"Driving with your headlights on makes sense because it helps other drivers see you," Law said. "Creating more distance between yourself and the car in front of you will also allow you more time to react to a circumstance. I advise people to also use alternate routes. For instance, I was driving east on Woodmen Road last week and the sun glare there was brutal. I couldn't see the traffic signals, so I turned on Marksheffel Road and drove south to Highway 94. I hit the glare again once I turned onto Highway 94, but at least I gave myself a break from it for a lengthy period and there is only one traffic signal between there and Schriever."

Drivers should also use caution when they are heading in the opposite direction of sun glare, since reflection off other cars and surfaces can temporarily blind as well. Colorado drivers frequently can experience sun glare combined with rain and snow as well.

"We are conditioned to focus on severe weather conditions like snow and ice when driving," said Lt. Col. Nate Iven, 50 SW safety chief. "The first 10 to 15 minutes after sunrise can also be severe, but taking these steps can reduce the risk."

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