Interest in the biggest coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the U.S. has been growing leading up to the big event on Monday, August 21st! Fourteen states — from Oregon to South Carolina — lie in the “totality zone”, a 70-mile-wide, 3,000-mile-long arc where the moon will appear to completely blot the sun. With all the buzz surrounding this celestial event, AAA East Central cautions those seeking an ideal location to view the eclipse to be mindful of traffic congestion and distracted driving.
“National and local agencies are warning travelers that they could encounter traffic jams along various points of the totality zone or other areas where the eclipse may be visible,” according to Theresa Podguski, Director of Public Affairs for AAA East Central. “We are offering tips to drivers to help them enjoy this phenomenon without finding themselves in harm’s way.”
AAA recommends eclipse road travelers be ready for traffic, congestion, and gridlock in the “totality” zone in the days surrounding the eclipse. Parts of the eclipse path of “totality” stretch across metro and rural areas and two-lane highways, so drivers should allow extra time, expect heavy traffic – along with the possibility of mishaps – which may cause delays.
AAA East Central’s driving tips for the “Great American Eclipse”:
- Choose courtesy. Be watchful, alert and courteous of others on the roads, highways and interstates.
- Do not drive distracted; don’t use a cell phone or other devices while driving. Focus on the “task” of driving.
- Don’t look at the eclipse while driving and don’t take photos while driving.
- Don’t stop along the interstate or park on the shoulder during the event. Do not drive or park on dry grass – it’s a fire danger.
- To view and/or photograph the eclipse, exit the highway to a safe location.
- While operating a vehicle, don’t wear eclipse glasses.
- Turn your headlights on — do not rely on your automatic headlights when the eclipse blocks out the sun. Make sure lights are on as the moon begins to cross in front of the sun.
- Watch out for pedestrians and cyclists along smaller roads. People may be parking, walking and cycling alongside the road before the eclipse to get a view. Look for pedestrians who also may be looking up and not looking ahead.
- Anticipate heavy congestion, especially on the interstates in the path on the day before, day of and day after the eclipse.
- August is peak highway construction season. Safety devices like cones, barrels and changeable message signs will be in place, posing a potential risk for distracted drivers even if construction workers may not be present.
Lastly, doctors say severe eye damage can occur if viewing the eclipse without special eclipse glasses. It may be too late to purchase certified eclipse glasses, so take advantage of planetariums, science museums and libraries hosting eclipse-related activities and viewings.
The next solar eclipse to cross the United States will be on April 8, 2024. The path of totality for this eclipse will cut from Texas to Maine. The country won’t get another coast-to-coast eclipse until Aug. 12, 2045 and there’s plenty of time to plan for that.