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Police motorcycle training – Riding at Dawn

It is very important when riding at dawn to be very aware of unexpected sun glare. I’m writing this training article on a real life experience that recently happened to me in hopes that it will help to alert my fellow motor officers.

Last month (October 2005) at around 7:30 in the morning, I was headed to work traffic enforcement at a local school. The weather conditions on that day were clear and sunny. Morning traffic is always slow on the Interstate. I was traveling with speeds fluctuating from 25 to 35 MPH

The sun was extremely bright and because I was traveling from west to east the occasional glare was blinding even though I was wearing sunglasses. As I crested the top of a bridge the unexpected happened. The sun suddenly blinded me at the same time a Ford Explorer came to an abrupt stop in front of me. Because the unexpected sun glare temporarily blinded I never saw the brake lights or the vehicles ahead of me slowing to a stop until it was too late.

Instinctively I tried to apply what I had learned through training and squeezed the front brake firmly like an orange and pressed my rear brake firm but still maintaining rolling friction. I was unable to stop in time and violently struck the rear of the Ford Explorer. My motorcycle was totaled and I was taken to the ER. I have learned since the accident that I will have surgery on my left shoulder because I tore the labrum around my shoulder when it dislocated when I went over the handlebars. I also have some bone chips in my shoulder that need to be removed.

I know the first thing that comes to mind is that I was following too close. I have replayed this collision over and over in my mind and I still feel like I maintained a good following distance under the normal roadway conditions for that Interstate.

In trying to think if anything else could have been done, it happened so quickly I did not have time to counter steer to the left or right. Plus, there was no room anyway to go to the right because of cars and no room to the left because of a concrete retaining wall. I did not have time to attempt a control lay down, so I applied the brakes.

What I would like to pass onto my fellow motor officers is that you must be aware of bright sunlight not only in the morning, but at dusk too. Even with sunglasses on, the sun glare can affect you suddenly and without warning. I probably should have created a greater following distance as I began to drive towards the top of the bridge and took into consideration the possible effect of the sunlight.

I’ve been riding for 15 years, and even though I know about the dangers we face each day I never thought that the bright sun could be a potential hazard. Remember on a bright sunny morning, when everything is going great; your boots are shined, your uniform is pressed, you’re getting a smile from the blonde in the convertible and you’re thinking, “I can’t believe they actually pay me to do this” don’t loose track of your surroundings. Keep your mind in the game and remember you need to be alert. Always scan ahead of you and work your way back. Look for all potential hazards and check your side mirrors. This should be a constant habit looking out in front and scanning your way back and don’t forget about the sun.

Stay safe and ride safe.

Sergeant Rob Grimsley
Motor Instructor
Charleston County Sheriff’s Office