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Highway Havoc

Highway Havoc


It wasn’t a typical rush-hour traffic pattern. Instead of a steady flow, vehicles were clumping in groups and coming to a stop in unpredictable patterns. Eventually, the cause became apparent. Up ahead, dump trucks and road-building machinery, as well as groups of road construction crews, were working on the highway. The weather was perfect; however, the setting summer sun was wreaking havoc on westbound motorists, causing some to find creative ways to block the glare so they could see to drive.

The road crews were working on a one-mile section of both the eastbound and westbound lanes on a divided four-lane highway. This section of highway was further divided into subzones, with crews funneling traffic into one-lane corridors. Vehicles were ushered through the zones by warning signs and flaggers with traffic-control signs.

In addition to construction zones and subzones, the roadwork caused intersecting access points to become partially blocked by traffic. Unfortunately, the road crews didn’t fully man or control all intersecting ingress and egress points along the highway. As a result, some drivers were entering the highway from an access point with a limited sight distance. There were numerous close calls, and it was only by luck vehicles didn’t collide. The road crews weren’t immune to the danger either. Because they were facing westbound traffic, they were at the mercy of the sun-blinded drivers, frequently dodging passing cars and trucks.

As rush hour progressed, drivers were becoming increasingly aggressive in their attempts to traverse the constructions zones. To make matters worse, the sun angle became even more intrusive as the traffic volume peaked. Cars were darting in and out of traffic lanes, and following distances got progressively shorter to the point that westbound traffic was now bumper to bumper. Brake lights were almost impossible to see through the blinding glare of the sun.

I drove slowly through the westbound traffic. When I reached the last series of construction subzones, the flagman signaled traffic to resume to the posted speed limit. Motorists were more than happy to speed up — despite the continued reduced visibility due to sun glare. As I rounded a curve, another westbound vehicle started passing my car. I was traveling below the posted speed limit and rounding a curve when I saw a pickup truck start to pull out of a side road and into the lane ahead of me and stop. At the same time, the sun blinded my vision.

Unable to judge closing distance or change lanes to avoid collision, my car T-boned the pickup at almost 45 mph. My air bag deployed and the inertial-reel lap/shoulder belt engaged, stopping my forward motion into the dash. All my tools in the backseat flew through the busted windshield and landed on the road ahead. The pickup truck’s fuel tank ruptured, spilling gas on the road and pooling in front of what was left of my car. Dazed but otherwise uninjured, I was able to get away from the wreckage safely.

Soon afterward, emergency medical service personnel and law enforcement arrived, securing the scene and transporting me to the hospital. The pickup driver was cited for causing the accident. He was unhurt, as most of the impact was in the truck’s bed right behind the cab. After being looked over at the hospital, I was released.

Lesson learned

The blinding sun and aggressive drivers are a dangerous combination. This was the first accident I’d ever been involved in during my more than 40 years of driving in all types of conditions. It just goes to show that despite your experience and skill, you never know what the other guy is going to do. As motorists, we must always be alert and wear our seat belts. On this day, my seat belt saved my life.


The rising and setting sun can result in highway havoc for motorists. So what can they do to protect themselves? AAA offers the following tips:

  • Invest in polarized sunglasses, which can help reduce glare.
  • Use your sun visor. It can help to block out the sun.
  • Leave more following room. When the sun is in your eyes it can be hard to see what the car ahead is doing. This is one more instance where it pays to leave extra room between you and the next vehicle.
  • Drive with your headlights on to increase your visibility to other drivers
  • Keep the windshield clean, inside and out.
  • Check the windshield for pitting and cracks.
  • Avoid storing papers or other items on the dashboard.
  • If having a difficult time seeing the road, use lane markings to help guide you.
  • 1 September 2021
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 592
  • Comments: 0
Categories: Off-DutyPMV-4