Eclipse Day Is a Dangerous One for Driving

But that appears to have more to do with eclipse parties than the eclipse itself
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2024 12:45 PM CDT
Updated Mar 30, 2024 6:00 AM CDT
Eclipse Day Is a Dangerous One for Driving
The moon covers the sun during a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017, in Cerulean, Ky. On April 8, 2024, the sun will pull another disappearing act across parts of Mexico, the United States, and Canada.   (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)

The upcoming total solar eclipse brings an unexpected risk—and it has to do with the roads, not people's vision. Researchers have found that traffic accidents spike around the time of an eclipse, similar to the way they do around a holiday such as Thanksgiving, reports CNN. A research analysis published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine points to a 31% increase in vehicle accidents. "In absolute terms, this averaged to 1 extra crash-involved person every 25 minutes and 1 extra crash fatality every 95 minutes," write the researchers.

However, the reason isn't because drivers get distracted by the change in light. It's more that lots of people are traveling to eclipse-watching parties on the day before and after the big event (and perhaps imbibing at parties on the actual day). "One of the surprises that I didn't anticipate was that the risks do not occur at the exact moment of totality," says Dr. Don Redelmeier of the University of Toronto, co-author of the analysis. "It's not when everything is dark and black and chilly, but instead, they occur in the hours before and after."

The upcoming eclipse across a swath of the US will occur on the afternoon of April 8. (See this NASA map.) Those traveling to see it might keep in mind that the hours immediately after the eclipse were found to be the most dangerous, with a 50% spike in accidents. The study was drawn from an analysis of accidents on US roads over three days around the last eclipse, in 2017—the day before, the day of, and the day after. The single riskiest hour was between 6 and 7pm on the day of the eclipse, meaning well after it was over, reports the National Post. (More solar eclipse stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.