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200-Million People Traveling for the Eclipse?

The eclipse on April 8th is a monumental event we look forward to experiencing here in North Texas. All of us at Accident & Injury Chiropractic want to encourage our communities to enjoy it safely. That means, of course, wearing proper eye gear to protect our eyes from serious, and possibly permanent, damage. (Eyewear must meet the ISO 12312-2 International Standard for viewing.) It also means being aware of driving safety issues and adapting our driving choices accordingly.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued travel warnings for the days leading up to and after April 8th. Many of us know by now that we should expect massive crowds and delays in the areas of totality. Totality occurs when the moon completely blocks the sun, and the path of totality includes the specific areas where observers can view this phenomenon. An estimated 20 million people traveled to another city to view the eclipse in 2017. According to the Denver Post, more than half a million cars caused a record-breaking traffic jam in Wyoming alone.

While the path of totality in 2017 was 70 miles wide, the path of totality for April 8th will be 115 miles wide and stretch across 15 states. Approximately 31 million people live in the path of totality, and this time it is estimated that 200 million people will be driving to places on the path including parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

The issue is not just that many of us will have to deal with huge crowds and traffic jams. The bigger concern is the likely uptick in serious traffic accidents in the time around the eclipse. According to a research letter published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, there was a 31% increase in serious crashes before, during, and after the total eclipse in 2017 largely due to the sheer numbers of people who traveled to the path of totality. Wrecks during totality actually tend to decrease, but, according to Newsweek, in the time right after totality, the risk of crashes increases to 50%.

Don Redelmeier, one of the authors of the research letter and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, says contributing factors to the higher crash rates include:

  • People driving on unfamiliar roads
  • People speeding to arrive at their destination on time
  • Distracted drivers
  • Drivers intoxicated from eclipse-celebration events
  • People viewing the eclipse from unsafe roadside locations

Following are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting into a wreck during the upcoming eclipse events.

  • If you can, avoid driving during the eclipse. If you must drive, don’t try to watch the eclipse while doing so.
  • Do not wear eclipse-appropriate eyewear while driving. Instead, position your sun visor to block the view of the sun. 
  • Ensure visibility on the road by turning on your headlights to alert other drivers of your presence.
  • Plan your driving routes to avoid congestion.
  • Obey all traffic laws—especially speed limits.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Wear your seatbelt.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Don’t stop your car on the highway or pull onto the shoulder to watch the eclipse.
  • Be mindful of increased pedestrian activity on the roads.

All this safety advice applies to areas where a partial eclipse will be visible as well. Remember, an eclipse is a special event, but no event, no matter how special, is worth the risk of a car crash and its subsequent repercussions. So, enjoy the eclipse, but enjoy it safely. And if you de get into a wreck, remember, there’s an Accident & Injury clinic near you that is ready to help.

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