Morning visibility low on Siskiyou

In addition to hurried pedestrians and icy roads, Ashland drivers heading southeast on Siskiyou Boulevard in the mornings have faced another hazard this month: the sun.

As the days have grown shorter, the sun has begun rising directly over the city's main thoroughfare, nearly blinding drivers between about 7:30 and 9 a.m. on clear days.

"The sun has been blinding in certain areas when driving around in the early morning," said Sgt. Hector Meletich with the Ashland Police Department.

City officials and police officers are aware of the problem, but say — short of divine intervention — there's little that can be done.

"We can't control that," Meletich said. "But if you can't see in front of you, it's obviously a hazard."

Police advise motorists to take alternate routes or adjust their travel times to avoid the rising sun.

"My recommendation on that is to change your schedule if you can," Meletich said. "If it's practical, take a different route. If it's practical, start earlier or later."

Southern Oregon University and Ashland High School officials worry the poor visibility in the mornings makes crossing the boulevard more dangerous for pedestrians.

"You might be kind of temporarily blinded until you see a student cross in front of the sun," said Larry Blake, director of campus planning and sustainability at SOU.

Last week, high school senior Eldon Tobrock, 18, was hit by a car, but not seriously injured, in a Siskiyou Boulevard crosswalk leading to the school. The crash, which occurred on the northbound side of the street at about noon, was not due to the brightness of the sun, according to officials.

Police say they have no evidence suggesting that the morning sun contributes to more crashes on Siskiyou Boulevard during the winter months. Still, they advise drivers to be more careful in the mornings this time of year, as visibility can be poor.

"It certainly does concern me," said Jim Olson, the city's engineering services manager. "I just don't have a solution to offer other than people just really need to be cautious and need to slow their speeds down. Sunglasses help."

In the winter, the sun travels closer to the horizon, making the days shorter.

"It's probably worse during this time of year, because the sun lines up more closely with Siskiyou Boulevard," Olson said.

At times, the sun can make it difficult to see traffic signals, including the flashing beacons at crosswalks.

Tim Case, co-owner of Case Coffee on Siskiyou Boulevard, said he couldn't tell whether a stoplight was red or green earlier this month as he traveled south on the boulevard at 7:45 a.m., because the sun was directly behind the light.

"I had to stop and make sure it was green before entering the intersection," Case said. "I could tell all the cars in front of me were slowing down at that light, trying to make sure. It was dangerous."

If drivers get caught in the near-blinding sun, they should pull over until they can see well enough to drive, Meletich said.

"Pull over to the side and stop, and just wait a while," he said. "The sun's moving."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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