Friday, 3 October 2014

Dazzled by Headlights or the Sun ? Stop !

There have been many recent cases where drivers that drive while blinded by low sun have been acquitted of dangerous or even careless driving. Judges are ignoring the Highway Code when sentencing, and instructing juries to ignore it when deliberating the verdict.
If nothing else, this is unnecessary tautological duplication.
93 Slow down, and if necessary stop, if you are dazzled by bright sunlight.
6. Hot weather ...
237 ... If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.
It seems that we have no protection when on east-west roads after dawn or before dusk under UK case law. Perhaps there should be a curfew ?

Fog is already an accepted excuse for bad driving, so I wonder which universally-encountered weather conditions will be blamed for bad driving next ? Ice, Snow, Rain, Wind, Night, Cloud ?

The principle used to be Highway Code 126
Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.
Pro Tip : If a car's number plate appears to be lit up, you are directly between them and the sun, so you are invisible.

Really, I would advise not using the roads when the sun is low. Extreme but safe !

Even slowing down is dangerous.
RAF Northolt Station Commander killed on A40 - [ Road Justice ]
"He was dazzled by sunlight, he slowed down and moved to the slow lane when other drivers were flashing their lights to say has driving too slowly, and that he was looking out for motorcyclists overtaking him at the time of the crash. He drove into the back of Group Captain Tom Barrett OBE, who was cycling"

Perhaps the Highway Code should say 'Stop in a safe place' ...

When I say "Fog is already an accepted excuse for bad driving", I mean :
If fog hides things, it cannot be invisible itself. You can see how poor the visibility is. Fog is that grey stuff.

With the advent of LED lighting, bikes can compete with car lighting. It is even possible that bike lights could dazzle drivers - flashing lights that are less bright will be just as visible - but beware fast strobing might in theory trigger epilepsy. But there will always be a possibility of not being seen by two drivers approaching from opposite directions. If each is trying to force the other to dip their lights first, then be afraid ! Maybe our lights should adjust to match the approaching lights' intensity ?

Actually that's exactly what reflectors do - reflect a proportion of the car lights back to the source. Big reflectors are the best countermeasure.

Davies v Carmarthenshire CC 1971
The Defendants had widened a road but left undisturbed a lamp-post so that it was a few feet out into the extended carriageway. The Plaintiff was travelling slowly, with the setting sun hampering her vision, when she struck the lamp-post. The local county court found entirely for her but on appeal she was apportioned 20% liability.

See also 

Lemmings - [ Motorism - a failure of democracy ! ]

I cant see the cyclist - The Sun Was In my Eyes - Honest - [ YouTube ]

Does autumn sun ‘kill 28 drivers per year’? - [ Road Safety Analysis (MAST) ]

AA highlights sun dazzle danger - [ Road Safety GB ]

British Summertime Factsheet - [ RoSPA ]

At The Going Down of The Sun and In The Morning - [ Beyond the Kerb ]

Death by Careless Driving When Not Driving - [ Keep Me On The Road ]
In this case the dazzled van driver ran into a parked lorry - and the lorry-driver was convicted, even though he wasn't in the cab !

Another parked lorry, but the  dazzled van driver killed the walking lorry driver. Acquitted !

Motorists 'blinded by sun' acquitted of cyclist's death - [ Cycling Weekly ]
An Acceptable Death - [ Beyond the Kerb ]
Double collision ...

Van driver convicted of killing RAF officer as he rode home on A40 escapes jail - [ ]

Two cleared of causing death of Shropshire cyclist by careless driving - [ Shropshire Star ]
Four or five collisions in a short time ...

Bright sun? Does the rule work? - [ Drive East Midlands ]
"It may well be that the rule is a bad one, intended only to aid a prosecution after an accident its only practical use, but if it is giving road users the impression that they are safer with the rule to protect them then that makes it very dangerous because clearly it cannot cover most instances of commonly being blinded whilst driving.
We would be better with no rule at all than a bad one that doesn't work." - Keith Peat
And abolish all speed limits because people don't observe them : legalise drugs because people break drug laws etc etc ?

However, "dazzled" is not a cast-iron defence:

Anjum Zeeshan sentenced to 9 months after conviction for killing cycling John Austin in West Byfleet, Surrey (22/05/11) - [ Road Justice ]
An interesting case. Note sunglasses will not improve vision. A hung jury, after the defence cast doubt on witness evidence, then a retrial. Against the sun, it is quite likely that brake lights would not be noticed. 'Following too close', rather than dazzled, was the conclusion. Was 'dazzled' just used as an excuse?

Driver convicted of causing death by dangerous driving despite 'dazzled by sunlight' defence (Sept 2006) - [ Road Justice ]
Killer driver 'never even said sorry' -  The Star ]

Former international show jumper jailed for running over elderly cyclist - [ Telegraph ]
He initially claimed he had hit a deer but later told jurors that he had crashed into Mr Smith by accident because he was blinded by the sun.
... the defendant told him he had intended to clip him with his car, sending him into a ditch but that it had all gone horribly wrong.

Collisions Due to Headlamp Dazzle

I have found a couple of pedestrian victims:

Iqbal : Driver who Killed as his Passengers Screamed gets Three Years - [ Court News UK ]
Speed, overtaking and wrong-side-of-road were other factors, as well as headlamp dazzle

Crash payout at risk over hi-vis jacket - [ BBC News ]
The insurers are appealing against the 100% liability compensation award. No criminal trial, just civil. I don't know why ? Can you plea-bargain civil vs criminal liability ?
Lord Justice Ward wrote: "The crux of the matter seems to be whether she should have set off at all (and I think the appellant will have difficulty about this) and whether she should have been wearing some visibility jacket."
The 13 year old girl was also walking on the left, with her back to traffic in her lane, probably listening to her iPod on headphones. An oncoming car drowned out sound from behind, and masked headlamp light/shadows anyway.
He was doing 50mph, judged too fast for the conditions, and looking at the oncoming car instead of the road ahead, allegedly. So both were looking in the wrong place.
'Dazzle', as such, isn't mentioned in web reports, but he must have been staring into the headlights.
It's quite evenly matched - compensation reduction would probably be small. It's been a long time with no news - case dropped ?
Insurers of motorist who left a teenage girl brain damaged argue victim was partly to blame
"they have no option but accept the offer because they fear being left with nothing if they appeal and lose"
No high hi viz clothing a reason for a reduced insurance pay out? - [ Timetrialling Forum ]
Also ...
Bez on Twitter: Coroner: "She wasn't trying to fire herself through a windscreen or commit suicide, and headlights are for losers."
PC Mark Milton: Police officer who caused outcry by testing patrol car at 159mph is cleared of high-speed crash - [ Daily Mail Online ]

The explanation for 'Dazzled' being OK may be the same as

Driving while blind
"The court heard Rashid was short sighted, could only read a car registration plate from 7ft (1.5m) away and had admitted to police he had not worn his glasses for a year and did not know where they were."
"The judge said: "I suggest we will never know why you did not see the victim. "
"It would have been desirable and prudent to wear the specs, but there is nothing unlawful about that. "The only possible aggravating factor is the specs and in evidence we heard they were not a legal requirement."
He  was charged with 'Causing Death by Dangerous Driving' but plead 'Guilty' to  'Causing Death by Careless Driving'.

I do not understand the judge's comments - given
Road Traffic Act 1988 - Part III - Physical fitness - Section 96 - Driving with uncorrected defective eyesight.
  1. If a person drives a motor vehicle on a road while his eyesight is such (whether through a defect which cannot be or one which is not for the time being sufficiently corrected) that he cannot comply with any requirement as to eyesight prescribed under this Part of this Act for the purposes of tests of competence to drive, he is guilty of an offence. 
  2. A constable having reason to suspect that a person driving a motor vehicle may be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above may require him to submit to a test for the purpose of ascertaining whether, using no other means of correction than he used at the time of driving, he can comply with the requirement concerned.
  3. If that person refuses to submit to the test he is guilty of an offence.

See Also Also

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