Crash analysis from the New Zealand Automobile Association (AA) has revealed that there have been 780 people injured and 21 killed in crashes involving sunstrike over the last five years, emphasising the importance of recommending appropriate eyewear options for patients who drive.

Sunstrike happens when the sun hits the windscreen, causing glare and making it hard to see the road ahead. The problem intensifies on mornings and afternoons, when the sun is low in the sky.

From 2013–17, the AA’s crash analysis showed 141 serious injuries and 639 minor injuries were caused by sunstrike across the country. Most of these incidents occurred in May, which is the worst month of the year for sunstrike due to the position of the sun during peak hour driving times.

AA road safety spokesperson Dylan Thomsen said, “If we look at the last five years, on average, 156 people are injured in crashes involving sunstrike each year. Good vision is absolutely essential to safe driving.”

Philip Walsh, Optometry Partner for Specsavers New Lynn in NZ, added, “Sunstrike can be easily managed because all a driver needs to do to dramatically reduce the effects is put on sunglasses and lift down their car’s sun visor. It’s a must for those who wear prescription glasses to also invest in prescription sunglasses or to wear sunglasses over their contact lenses while driving. This helps to maintain optimal vision and safety on the roads. Even [for those who] don’t wear specs, decent quality polarised sunglasses will noticeably reduce sunstrike when on the road.”

It was found that some of the most common, yet avoidable crashes due to sunstrike occurred at intersections. These were due to drivers failing to see another vehicle or person. Rear-end crashes were the second most common type of incident, when the driver was unable to see that there was a vehicle slowing or stopped ahead of them.

Five years ago, Specsavers and AA formed a partnership that entitles AA members to a free eye exam every two years. Since then, Specsavers stores have carried out more than 500,000 free exams for AA members.