In all the excitement of the upcoming solar eclipse, one potentially negative aspect of this event is the effect that all the hype and interest may have on car accidents.
And while you may not make an immediate connection between the eclipse and car wrecks, the fact is that this once-in-a-lifetime event may cause one of the biggest examples of driver distraction we’ve seen in decades. And driver distraction is one of the most significant contributors to car and truck accidents in the U.S.
Let’s take a look at how the eclipse could cause drivers to lose focus and concentration on the road, and how they can prevent that distraction from turning into a devastating car accident.
What Is Driver Distraction?
Before diving into the dangers of the upcoming solar eclipse, it’s important to understand why driver distraction is such a risky behavior.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving killed 3,477 people in 2015, and most of those lives could have been saved if drivers had simply practiced some safe driving techniques.
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system–anything that takes your attention from the task of safe driving.
Texting is by far the most common type of distracted driving, and studies have found that when drivers text, they take their eyes off the road for five seconds or more. This is equivalent to closing your eyes and driving across a football field. Not surprisingly, young drivers are the group most likely to text and drive, and to use their cell phones while driving.
And contrary to popular belief, hands-free devices are not any safer, as studies have found that talking on a hands-free device causes the same level of distraction as talking on a phone that is being handled manually. But distracted driving doesn’t just take your eyes off the road; it can also take your hands off the wheel. When that happens, your reaction time to respond to unexpected incidents on the road is eliminated, meaning that there is a much higher likelihood that you will cause or be involved in a car crash.
How the Solar Eclipse Could Cause Distracted Driving
Although most incidents of distracted driving are caused by something that is occurring inside a vehicle, a special event such as a solar eclipse would certainly attract the attention of drivers.
The solar eclipse poses some significant problems, not just because of the attention it will draw, but for the sheer number of vehicles that will be on the road when the eclipse occurs.
The last trans-coastal eclipse took place February 26, 1979, and at that time there were 6.2 million vehicles registered in the U.S. As of 2015, there were 263 million vehicles registered in the U.S., so in less than 40 years the number of registered vehicles in the U.S. has increased by more than 200 million.
Therefore, the opportunities for car accidents have exponentially increased since the last eclipse, and you can be certain that people who are not stationary at the time of the eclipse will want to get a peek at this big event.
And every safety expert has warned drivers not to look at the eclipse while driving, because even if you are wearing eyeglasses that reduce the glare and brightness, you are still taking a big risk.
Not only does the act of glancing at the eclipse cause drivers to take their eyes of the road, but with so many drivers expected to pull over to the side of roads and highways, unsafe lane changes are bound to occur. When you combine distracted driving and unsafe lane changes, the result is typically some type of accident.
Ways To Avoid Distracted Driving During the Eclipse
So given the risks associated with the solar eclipse, what are some methods drivers can use to avoid distracted driving during the eclipse?
The biggest method has already been discussed, and that is for drivers to simply refuse to look up as the sun and moon converge.
But there are other methods you can use to avoid distracted driving during this event, including:
- Be Aware of Pedestrians – like it or not, people are going to be looking up at the eclipse, and many of them will be pedestrians. Some won’t pay attention to where they are standing, but you need to, or you may hit these unfortunate eclipse-watchers.
- Be Aware of Construction Zones – accidents are common in construction zones, and late summer is one of the busiest construction periods of the year. Stay alert in construction zones, where speed and distraction quickly lead to crashes.
- Be Aware of Increased Traffic – The eclipse takes place on a Monday, traditionally a busy traffic day. Expect traffic to be much worse on Eclipse Monday, especially in areas of the country such as Idaho, where the elevation makes the eclipse much more clear and distinct.
Above all, keep your eyes on the road, eliminate all distractions, and pay careful attention to other drivers.
Finding a Lawyer After An Accident
Distracted driving can cause serious injuries in an accident, and after you’ve been involved in this type of crash, you should hire an experienced law firm to handle your claim. People who don’t focus on the road are liable for the accidents they cause, but only an experienced law firm can prove negligence.