Rider returns in wake of sunstrike

Lasting impact: In 2011, Michelle Turner was able to get back on her bike – a year after a serious crash. She remains wary of sunstrike affecting motorists.
Lasting impact: In 2011, Michelle Turner was able to get back on her bike – a year after a serious crash. She remains wary of sunstrike affecting motorists.

Sunstrike isn't something Michelle Turner takes lightly.

On February 9 it will be three years to the day since the Manawatu woman was knocked off her bike by a car on Rongotea Rd about 7am.

She was so badly injured she thought she might never ride again.

She suffered a broken leg, dislocated ankle, and fractured neck and spine vertebrae.

But, Miss Turner was able to get back on her bike, and recently came second in her age group, and seventh female overall, in the 150-kilometre Around the Mountain cycle challenge in Taranaki.

The accident has had a lasting effect on her, however, and she no longer cycles at times when sunstrike can hit.

She has even changed her route to work to avoid the morning glare. College St was particularly bad for sunstrike at the moment, coupled with the added concern of large numbers of children walking on the street.

According to the NZ Transport Agency, sunstrike is more common in winter, but can occur at any time during the day.

It is most likely to happen during sunrise or sunset, when the sun's rays hit car windscreens at a low angle.

Horizons Regional Council road safety co-ordinator Alane Nilsen said recent mornings had been bright and sunny, and daylight saving also affected the timing of when motorists encountered a problem.

''Many people feel that it is worse during summer and this may be because of how bright the sun is and the longer hours of sunshine we are having.''

Mrs Nilsen said sunstrike also presented a problem from some of the glass towers around the city, like the FMG building in The Square, reflecting the sun onto the road for short periods of the day.

''My advice is, if you frequently drive in those areas at that those times of day, to take a slightly different route to avoid the glare or alter your times slightly so the sun has moved away from that area and doesn't throw the blinding light at you.''

Although the summer sun had yet to cause any serious accidents locally, in worst-case scenarios it was advised that drivers pull over for a few minutes to let the problem pass.

Using sunshades and sunglasses as well as keeping windscreens clean also helped with dealing with the glare, she said.

Palmerston North police Acting Senior Sergeant Phil Ward said there appeared to be more glare happening, but they had not had any reports of accidents directly attributed to sunstrike.

It was common sense that if drivers were effected by sunstrike, they should pull over.

How to prevent sunstrike:

Be prepared for sunstrike when driving at sunrise or sunset, especially when turning or driving towards the sun.

Wear sunglasses when driving with the sun in your eyes.
Use your vehicle's sun visors to block the sun.

If you experience sunstrike, you can pull over and wait a few minutes
until your eyes adjust or visibility improves.

Keep your windscreen clean, inside and out.

Manawatu Standard