Equinox causes glaring problem on Valley roads

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

PHOENIX -- As if the evening rush hour commute wasn’t bad enough, add a glaring problem to a dangerous drive.

If the sun seems extra blinding right now, it’s not you, it’s the equinox, the time of year when the sun rises and sets immediately due east and west. 

AAA says the phenomenon doesn’t really jive with the grid system of Arizona roads, since the sun is directly in the line of sight for commuters who head east for work and west for home during the weeks around the equinox.

“It really is hazardous,” said Stephanie Dembowski of AAA. “It makes it extra difficult to see other vehicles, pedestrians or anything in front of you.”

Case and point: Tuesday’s crash at 55th and Thomas in Phoenix. Witnesses say a driver ran a red light at the intersection, hitting three pedestrians in the crosswalk, just around 6 p.m.  She told witnesses the glare contributed to the crash.

“Basically she said she couldn’t see because of the sun, couldn’t tell the color of the light,” said Lupe Espinoza who spoke to the driver.

3TV drove the same route at the same time of the day to get a sense of the conditions at the time of the wreck.

“Really, at this time of day, you can’t have any distractions. It’s difficult enough to focus on the color of lights and cars around you,” said reporter Natalie Brand, while behind the wheel.

AAA recommends trying to avoid east, west routes during the morning or evening commute, or leaving at a slightly different time.  A spokesman also recommends making sure your windshield is especially clean, to reduce the glare.

A spokesman from the city of Phoenix told 3TV our traffic signals also have special design elements to make them more visible, including a visor. 

Also, intersections include both traffic signals on the mast arms, as well as at a lower location on the signal pole. Drivers should look at the signal on the pole if the glare of the sun is making it too hard to see the higher light, according to a spokesman.