Monday, August 21st will see the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental United States since 1918. As rare and exciting as this celestial event may be, people still have things to do and places to be on Monday, so there will inevitably be a lot of cars on the road while the moon crosses in front of the sun. But is it safe to drive during a solar eclipse?
Yes, basically, as long as you're careful and take certain precautions. The biggest danger while driving during the eclipse is not some paranormal, astrological forces dragging you off the road, or beaming you up into another dimension -- the biggest threat is other drivers behaving like dummies.
Not only will more cars be on the road, especially around the "path of totality" - the 70 mile strip where people can see the moon block out the sun completely - many drivers will lively be paying more attention to the sky than the road ahead of them. According to the Verge, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is already calling the eclipse “one of the largest driver distractions in years.”
“We encourage travelers, we want to be excited about this, but be prepared,” Martin Knopp, associate administrator for operations at FHWA, said in a recent press briefing. “It’s not a time to just show up and at the spur of the moment drive for a few minutes with your head out the window looking up at the sky. It’s not time to pull over and be on the side of the road.”
In anticipation of the event, AAA released some tips for driving during the eclipse. Check them out below, and remember - when in doubt, don't be a dummy.
Don't stare at the eclipse while you drive (duh)
Ideally this would go without saying, but head in the car, eyes on the road.
Don't wear eclipse glasses while driving
Eclipse glasses with solar filters are a great way to enjoy the eclipse when you're not in a speeding pile of metal, but since they're designed to block out 99.9 percent of light, best not to wear them when driving.
Don't pull over by the side of the road
Because other drivers may be distracted during the eclipse and could accidentally swerve onto the shoulder, AAA recommends exiting the roadway and parking in a safe space away from traffic to observe the event.
Keep your headlights on
During the eclipse, the moon will temporarily block out the sun, so areas around the eclipse will suddenly be very dark. Keep your headlights on instead of relying on automatic headlights to ensure you're not caught off guard.
Watch out for pedestrians
Millions of people are expected to view the apocalypse, and some of them may get distracted and end up wandering into the road, so be on the look out for sky-gazers in the streets.
Drive slowly, and keep plenty of space between you and other cars
Once again, expect your fellow drivers to be distracted. By driving slowly and maintaining additional distance between you and other cars, you give yourself space to avoid possible collisions with other vehicles.
So go out, be safe, enjoy the eclipse, and remember: DON'T BE A DUMMY.