RALEIGH The end of daylight saving time this weekend might offer a welcome extra hour of sleep, but for drivers traveling through the 8.5-mile Fortify construction zone, it also means having to deal with morning glare and darker afternoons.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic fatalities are three times more likely to occur just before sunrise and at dusk. The reason: although the sky is still lit, the roads begin to get dark. This causes a disparity between light and dark, which causes vision problems for some drivers.
"Driving in low-light conditions is more challenging due to reduced visibility," said Kevin Lacy, state traffic engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. "Your view is limited to the distance illuminated by your vehicle's headlights, and you do not have the advantage of color and contrast that you have during the day."
Glare from either the rising or setting sun or from headlights in the darkened afternoon poses another problem. Glare also reduces the ability to see, and in the Fortify work zone, it is imperative that drivers have keen vision to safely navigate barrier walls, lane markings and slowing or stopped vehicles.
On Monday, until the time changes again in the spring, Fortify commuters will have to routinely add glare to their list of driving precautions.
"Glare causes light scatter in the eyes, which in turn reduces the contrast of roadway objects," Lacy said. "Glare can also increase reaction time because of its three- to five-second effect on vision, which may cause drivers to slow down and drift in their lane."
Jack Pedro, Fortify's lead project inspector, always has concerns for drivers the first week after the seasonal shift. "Even though it will be light earlier in the mornings and dark earlier in the afternoon, for the first week, drivers may still behave the same," he said. "They'll continue to drive above the speed limit and not take into consideration lower visibility and glare."
As a word of caution, Pedro offers these words of advice for motorists. "Look ahead, instead of immediately in front of you," he said. "You'll be able to see where you're going, and it will allow greater time for reaction."
Drivers should look for traffic shifts this week on both sides of the project on the ramp from U.S. 1 to I-40 East and from I-40 East at Rock Quarry to the I-40/ 440 merge. These shifts were delayed by rain. There will also be more concrete barriers placed on I-40 West between State Street and Garner Road.
The long-term three-lane driving pattern will soon be in place on both sides of the entire 8.5 miles of the project. Drivers should adjust their commute by considering alternate routes, changing their work hours, teleworking or using public transportation.