Blinded By The Light?

In two recent Kansas accidents involving bicycles, the glare from the setting sun was apparently a contributing factor:

  • In Yoder, KS, a 15-year-old motorist, blinded by the sun, rear-ended a bicycle ridden by 57-year-old Vernon Bontrager. No word on whether the driver was ticketed. view map
  • In Wellington, KS, 52-year-old Clifford Bradley died when his bicycle was struck by a car driven by a 16-year-old male. Police say the driver of the car said he didn’t see Bradley because the sun was in his eyes. view map

Is “I couldn’t see because the sun was in my eyes” really a legitimate excuse for hitting or killing someone? Yes, it’s possible to be suddenly blinded, but those cases should be extremely rare. If you’re driving around dawn or dusk, you know sun glare can be an issue, and you need to be prepared. If you can’t see, you need to slow down.

In what I think is a brilliant statement, a California Highway Patrol officer said: “It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure they can safely drive without any obstruction. Don’t just drive blind into the sun. If you can’t see, the speed limit is zero.”

Nevertheless, people do continue to drive at speed, even when they can’t clearly see the road ahead of them (see another example). So please, take special care when the sun is low in the sky.

See also: Dawn and dusk risky times on the road from KTKA in Wichita.

In addition to the two above, it seems there have been a lot of other bicycle accidents reported recently — some caused by the cyclists themselves, some by motorists, but an alarming number involving children:

  • In Lawrence, KS, a student riding a bicycle ran into the rear end of a parked car and crashed through its rear windshield. It’s not clear whether the cyclist wasn’t paying attention, or if the car stopped suddenly and without signaling. view map
  • In Wichita, KS, a 16-year-old student was struck by Minivan as he rode his bicycle to school. The driver, a classmate at South High School, wasn’t paying attention when she drove through a crosswalk and hit the bicycle. The driver then left the scene and continued to school, where she was arrested and charged with hit and run and fleeing the scene of an accident. view map
  • In Bentonville, AR, a young man was killed after he lost control of his bicycle and went under the back tires of a tanker truck. view map
  • In Sioux City, IA, an intoxicated cyclist was injured when his bicycle crashed into a pickup truck. No citations have been issued. view map
  • In Davenport, IA, a 13-year-old boy riding a bicycle on his way school was struck crossing the roadway at the pedestrian cross walk. The driver of the vehicle ran a red pedestrian crossing signal and hit the student. It then left the scene, and police are searching for the vehicle and driver. view map
  • In Rowley, IA, 51-year-old Penny Vanous was killed (and her husband injured) when she was struck from behind by a car driven by 78-year old Ruby Kimber. Police believe Kimber didn’t see the couple, and weather or road conditions were apparently not a factor. The accident is under investigation, and no charges have been filed yet. view map
  • In Kansas City, MO, a 13-year-old bicyclist was struck by car and injured. The 17-year-old driver of the car that hit the boy was taken into custody for traffic-related issues. view map
  • In Kansas City, MO, a woman on a bicycle was struck by a truck near the Country Club Plaza. Witnesses told police the woman on the bike had the right of way. view map
  • In North Platte, NE, 13-year-old bicyclist was struck by car as he emerged from a sidewalk into an intersection. The cyclist said his brakes failed and he was not able to stop. view map
  • In Omaha, NE, police arrested a man who drove up on a sidewalk, hitting and injuring a 7-year-old girl riding her bike. He was booked on suspicion of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, driving under the influence of alcohol, obstructing a peace officer and leaving the scene of a property destruction accident. view map
  • In Durant, OK, a girl riding her bicycle was struck by a truck. The victim said she had been riding her bicycle with a friend when a man driving a flatbed truck waved for them to cross an intersection. The girl said the driver then sped up as they entered the intersection and struck her bicycle, causing her to fall off. The juveniles then ran into an alley and observed the pickup backing up because the driver was apparently looking for them. view map

Be careful out there, folks! Assume drivers can’t see you or aren’t paying attention …

About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

2 responses to “Blinded By The Light?”

  1. Jef says:

    I sympathize and ‘get’ the idea that cyclists have a right to the road and to a lane. After decades of cycling though I think cyclists have some responsibility in picking their routes and times of transit. Everyday there is a time where the sun is in such a position that you may find yourself the middle dot where the sun connects to a motorist behind you and is overwhelmed with glare. Instead of taking my chances I don’t ride at this time or ride in another direction during this window that’s maybe 20-30 minutes long. So knock on wood I have yet to be hit by a car and it’s in large measure to following seemingly counter intuitive rules such as these

    (which happen to agree with my experience)

    The only thing I would add is ALWAYS take a lane* and make traffic ‘deal’ with you. You may get yelled at, honked and even things thrown but riding further out in the road assures that traffic will have to negotiate you. Down here in Texas we have many 6 lane grid streets where cyclists have an entire lane to themselves without any hassle. Avoid rush hour, avoid streets with a bad vibe and avoid riding directly at the sun as romantic as it seems.

    Wear a helmet, front and rear lights on or blinking at all times, obey laws and don’t pass cars that have already passed you.

    *By lane I mean a street with more than 1 lane in each direction. Normally 2 lane roads I consider death marches and avoid them unless they are very rural.

  2. Randy says:

    There’s an interesting discussion of this topic on the Puncture Proof blog from Iowa (in the comments).