Researchers Warn About Increased Risk Of Deadly Crashes In The US During The Solar Eclipse


Washington: The increased traffic and spectacle of the total solar eclipse on Monday could risk motorists, with researchers warning that fatal collisions increased during previous eclipses and law enforcement is bracing for the event.

According to a letter published this week in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal, there was a 31% increase in fatal road accidents during the complete eclipse — and even in the days before and following the celestial event. Remarkably, “we see a significant decrease during the single hour that involves the eclipse,” co-author Dr. Donald Redelmeier stated. The spike in accidents was unrelated to the periods of darkness when the moon blocked the sun.

Redelmeier, the University of Toronto professor of medicine, told Live Science that the problem is the surrounding hours when people are travelling to their place of observation and especially afterwards. He added that they are especially concerned about the drive home.

Richard Fienberg, project manager of the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Eclipse Task Force, told Time that the event will be “like having 20 or 30 Super Bowls happening all at once” in terms of road traffic. During the 2017 eclipse, around 20 million people in the US travelled to other cities within a 70-mile path of totality as per the estimates by the University of Michigan.

Only three large cities, Portland, St. Louis, and Kansas City, were accessible by car in a three-hour radius around the 2017 course. In contrast, eight major cities—including Toronto, Houston, and Chicago—will be reachable within three hours of the 2024 event. The gridlock resulting from 5 million people leaving the route of totality as soon as the event ended would be the equivalent of 71 sold-out football games ending all at once, according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ cautious estimate.

Only 2.5 to 4.5 minutes of totality will be visible to spectators on Monday; those who are not in the path will only be able to experience a partial eclipse. The route will travel through Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine before arriving at Newfoundland in Canada. The route will begin on the Pacific coast of Mexico and end in Canada.

31.6 million people are expected to be within the path of totality according to NASA’s projection, and 150 million more will be able to witness partial totality. On Monday, millions more people will move into those places. In contrast, 12 million people were within the eclipse’s path in 2017. In 2017, the eclipse’s area of totality measured just around 70 miles; according to NASA’s estimations, this year’s eclipse will cover a 115-mile band.

The 2017 total solar eclipse was highly anticipated, according to the researchers who produced the report, because a third of all Americans lived within 300 miles of the path of totality, or the places where a total eclipse occurred. Significant traffic was caused by the estimated 20 million Americans who left their homes to see the eclipse in another city. They went on to state that they had been led to believe under hypnosis that there was a higher chance of a deadly car accident during an eclipse.

Researchers discovered that in the three days leading up to the eclipse, the average rate of road traffic fatalities rose from 7.9 to 10.3 per hour. According to the authors, this amounted to, on average, one additional crash victim every 25 minutes and one additional crash fatality every 95 minutes.

The study found that there was a 50% increased chance of fatal accidents on the roads in the hours immediately following the totality. Although it’s possible that less serious accidents also increased, Redelmeier told Live Science that “we just don’t have the data on that.” The study was centred on fatal crashes.

According to New York State Police Public Information Officer James O’Callahan, Fox News Digital, experts are forecasting an influx of up to one million eclipse chasers, just in western New York. Based on data from the census, the region is home to slightly over 2 million people.

According to him, law enforcement and local authorities have been preparing for the celestial event for the past year, mainly concentrating on road safety. One hundred to one hundred fifty more state troopers will be dispatched to the area, mostly for traffic management. Examining past eclipse events was a major component of getting ready for the event. This includes locations such as Oregon in August 2017, when heavy traffic from tourists travelling to and from their viewing spots caused delays of almost 20 hours in certain areas.

Potential risks include poor cellular coverage, gridlock in the streets, and restricted first responder mobility during an emergency. Given those worries, the Niagara area, which is located on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, issued a state of emergency for April 8. Certain localities, like Niagara Falls, New York, are implementing measures to stagger the departure of revellers by keeping them in town after the event ends.

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