Upcoming solar eclipse predicted to increase fatal accidents

The April 8 total solar eclipse may cause more car crashes, findings from the 2017 event in the US suggest
An undated image shows a solar eclipse. — Unsplash
An undated image shows a solar eclipse. — Unsplash

The upcoming April 8 total solar eclipse might spell trouble on the roads, as an investigation into the car crashes during the 2017 solar eclipse in the US hints at a potential surge in fatal accidents.

While eclipses often conjure images of eye injuries rather than vehicular mishaps, the “Great American Eclipse” of 2017 witnessed a noteworthy spike in fatal crashes, as per a report published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, as reported by Space.com.

Contrary to assumptions, the increase in accidents wasn’t linked to the temporary darkness during the eclipse itself. Dr Donald Redelmeier, co-author of the study emphasised a significant difference in accidents during the eclipse hour.

However, the danger lies in the hour before and after particularly during travelling. During the 2017 solar eclipse event, an estimated 20 million Americans commuted towards the eclipse’s path of totality, where the moon’s shadow fully obscured the sun. Similarly, the forthcoming April 8 eclipse will offer viewers within its path a brief window of totality, varying by location. Yet, those outside the path will experience only a partial eclipse.

Researchers like Dr Redelmeier and Dr John Staples stated that the examined data collected from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered a 31% surge in fatal crashes during the 2017 eclipse compared to similar periods, as reported by Space.com. The risk peaked post-eclipse, particularly in regions with clear skies where eclipse-watchers gathered, which might exacerbate traffic problems.

To mitigate risks during astronomical events like solar eclipses, adherence to standard safety protocols like observing speed limits, minimising distractions, and wearing seat belts remains crucial.

As Dr Redelmeier warns, whether an amateur astronomer or not, all share the roads during a solar eclipse.