If I asked you to close your eyes and imagine a car crash, it might play out like a movie scene in your mind: a car skidding down the road on dark, stormy night or rain pelting the windshield of an out-of-control car surrounded by darkness.
But research suggests it’s actually the bright, sunny days that put us at greater risk of a life-threatening car crash.
The research study, conducted by Sunnybrook physician and epidemiologist Dr. Donald Redelmeier, looked at every patient hospitalized at Sunnybrook after a car crash for the past 20 years. The researchers then cross-checked the weather at the time and place of the crash (along with a week before and after for reference).
Of the total 6,962 patients that were studied, the majority of life-threatening traffic crashes happened in the daytime, and the risk increased with bright sunlight. The increased risk was about 16 per cent, was the same for drivers of all demographics, and wasn’t easily explained by glare at dawn or dusk. The same increased risk wasn’t found on days of cloudy or overcast weather. Watch the video above to find out more.
The study findings didn’t surprise Sharon Ramagnano, manager of trauma services at Sunnybrook.
“I think during the sunny summer days drivers may assume the road conditions are good and may drive faster,” she said. “There are also typically more people out on bright sunny days — more pedestrians, more cyclists, more motorcycles and more cars — and so drivers may be more distracted.”
Sharon said drivers should keep good sunglasses in the car and use the vehicle’s sun visor to help minimize glare.
“Don’t ruin a beautiful day with an ugly traffic crash,” Dr. Redelmeier said. “In particular, recognize that your judgment may be mistaken in bright sunlight and tempt you toward excess speeding. Check your speedometer and respect the police who enforce speed limits even when conditions are seemingly perfect.”
Sharon says the start of “trauma season” – the summer months, which see an increase in the number of people visiting hospital emergency rooms due to traumatic injuries – is a good time for a few reminders about driving safety, even though the tips aren’t anything groundbreaking.
“Stay alert and keep your eyes on the road,” she said. “Do not drink and drive. Put your phone out of sight. Use your mirrors and keep a safe distance from the cars in front and behind you.”
She said these few simple things can help keep our roads safer.
“When you get in your car, adjust your seat to the proper distance. Check and adjust your mirrors to allow for the greatest possible view. Make sure your windshield washer fluid is topped up. Put on your seatbelt and make sure your passengers do too.”
Take an extra second to check twice before turning or moving ahead, she added.
“Watch for pedestrians and cyclists. Obey the road signs at all times,” Sharon said. “Ensure you pay attention to the other cars around you that may not be paying attention to you.
“Slow down and take your time. It sounds so obvious. But it’s always good to just take a moment and remind ourselves of these things.”
Have a great, safe — and hopefully sunny — summer.