A total solar eclipse in 2017 is linked to a brief spike in traffic accidents

A total solar eclipse in 2017 is linked to a brief spike in traffic accidents

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Before the total solar eclipse arrives on April 8, a new study finds that there was a temporary spike in traffic accidents in the United States around the time of the solar eclipse in 2017.

The area in the United States covered by the totality seven years ago was relatively small (about 70 miles), but it was still associated with a 31% national rise in fatal traffic accidents.

“In absolute numbers, this amounted to an average of one additional person involved in a crash every 25 minutes and one additional fatality every 95 minutes,” said a Canadian team led by Dr. Donald Redelmeyer of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto.

His team suspects that the rise in incidents is not due to any temporary change in visibility due to the eclipse. Instead, the reason is likely to be an increase in the number of people traveling to witness this rare phenomenon.

In 2017, a total eclipse led an estimated 20 million people to travel to another city to view it, the Toronto team said.

More traffic risks could be on the horizon on April 8, the study authors said, because this time the eclipse is “within the driving range of more than 200 million people within the United States.”

The new study relied on US data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Redelmeyer’s team looked at the three days before, during and immediately after the total eclipse on August 17, 2017, and compared road accident rates during that period to three-day periods during the week before and the week after the eclipse.

The research showed that fatal accident rates rose nationally during the three days surrounding the eclipse: 10.3 deaths per hour compared to 7.9 per hour during the weeks before and after the eclipse.

Increased traffic density appears to be key, the researchers noted, because the rise in deaths “is similar in magnitude to the increased traffic risks observed on Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July weekend.”

However, they do not rule out other factors, including “travelling on unfamiliar roads, speeding to arrive on time, driver distraction due to a rare celestial event, drug or alcohol-induced impairment of eclipse-related celebrations, and viewing the eclipse from unsafe locations.” “. Roadside locations.”

Redelmeier and his colleagues say driver precautions on and around April 8 could save lives.

Researchers advise applying standard safety tips: Don’t speed, wear your seat belt, don’t open the tailgate, and don’t drive while drunk or stoned.

The study was published on March 25 JAMA Internal Medicine.

more information:
Donald A. Redelmeyer et al., Fatal Traffic Hazards with a Total Solar Eclipse in the United States, JAMA Internal Medicine (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.5234

Magazine information:
JAMA Internal Medicine

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