Snowfall Intensifies Sun Glare

By: Summer Knowles
By: Summer Knowles

December 6, 2005

After the first big snow, freezing temperatures and slick conditions aren't the only things drivers are dealing with on the road.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says sun glare is one of many things that contribute to accidents during the wintertime.

Motorists have been trying their best to do one thing, protect their vision.

"If you're coming up a hill, especially with the reflection off the snow, you can lose visibility for a few seconds and it?s kinda scary," said Motorist Janice May.

"When the snow is on the ground about 85 percent of that UV light is reflected back up into the eyes, and if you're not protected, you can actually get a sunburn on the eye," said Dr. Joseph DiGirolamo, an optometrist with Primary Eyecare Associates.

The type of sunburn Dr. DiGirolamo referred to can cause a condition known as snow blindness.

"The medical name is photokeratitus and you can actually get an abrasion on the front of the eye from the intensity of the ultraviolet light and it can be very painful and it makes the vision very blurry for a day or two while it's healing," DiGirolamo added.

To avoid that kind of eye damage, in addition to using a sun visor, optometrists recommend wearing UV blocking sunglasses whether there's snow on the ground or not.

"Just like you put sunscreen on your skin to prevent your skin from being damaged from the sun and sunburn, a good quality pair of sunglasses will be like sun block, but for the eyes," said Dr. DiGirolamo.

"It's kind of like your wallet, your sunglasses, [and] your keys [are] the three essentials," said May.

In addition to using sunglasses and visors to help with sun glare, you should also reduce your speed until you can clearly see.

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