EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 17, 2013

Solar glare slows Interstate 93 commute

Interstate 93 drivers in a tough sun field

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — Seasonal solar glare is slowing the southbound morning commute on Interstate 93 and posing a driving hazard.

From Londonderry through Salem, traffic is stop-and-go at times as drivers manuever through a curve in the highway to encounter a bright ball of sun in their field of vision.

“We do have this happen every year,” said Lt. Chris Wagner, commander of New Hampshire State Police Troop B, which patrols the highway. “As winter is upon us, sun glare becomes an issue.”

It’s a challenge.

“You can’t see each other,” said meteorologist John Cannon of the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. “It’s a pretty big hazard. This time of year, from December through early January, the sun is at such a low level on the horizon that you’ll have it a good part of the day.”

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation will sometimes warn drivers of the danger.

“One of our messages used on the electronic message boards is ‘Solar Glare Possible – Use Caution,’” spokesman William Boynton said.

Commuters traveling through Londonderry recently during the morning rush hour have experienced traffic slowdowns in sunny, dry weather.

Wagner said fresh snow will compound the problem. That could be an issue today and tomorrow.

For drivers, it’s a tough combination of circumstances.

“Driving into the sun can bring you to a stop. If you can’t see, a natural reaction is to hit your brakes or change lanes,” Wagner said. “Certainly, this can be very dangerous.”

While the problem will vary from day to day, regular commuters generally will know the trouble spots.

“Commuters are their own best friend,” Wagner said. “They know the roadway as we do.”

His tips for drivers are common sense ones.

“Slow down. Don’t travel so close to the other cars, maintain a healthy distance,” he said. “Pay attention.”

Don’t forget to use your tools, he advises. Those include sunglasses and windshield visors.

This driving challenge will be here for a few weeks.

“Solar glare is going to be here for the next couple of months,” Wagner said. “Know that and plan accordingly.”

But Cannon said drivers will find relief as days grow longer and the sun moves higher in the sky.

“In December, it’s tough,” he said. “The sun is so low on the horizon.”