The analysis showed that the total solar eclipse in 2017 led to a short-lived increase in traffic accidents

The analysis showed that the total solar eclipse in 2017 led to a short-lived increase in traffic accidents

An estimated 20 million people in the United States traveled to another city to view the 2017 solar eclipse. (Image source: alexandragl1/iStockphoto/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) – There was a significant increase in fatal car crashes in the United States around the time of the 2017 total solar eclipse, a new analysis shows.

The analysis, published in a research letter Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found a 31% increase in traffic risks at the time of the eclipse, similar to the increase in risks on other holidays such as Thanksgiving. In absolute terms, this means on average one additional person involved in a collision every 25 minutes and one additional fatality every 95 minutes.

Dr. Don Riedelmeyer, co-author of the analysis and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said the higher traffic risks are not due to the eclipse itself and the transient change in light but rather to the increased number of people travelling. . According to the study, an estimated 20 million people in the United States traveled to another city to watch the 2017 solar eclipse.

People are more likely to get distracted, drive on unfamiliar roads and rush to get to their destination on time, Riedelmeyer said. They may also be intoxicated by eclipse-related celebrations or may choose to watch the event from unsafe roadside locations, he added.

“One surprise I didn’t expect is that the risks don’t happen at the exact moment of their totality. It doesn’t happen when everything is dark and black and cold, but instead, it happens in the hours before and after,” Riedelmeyer said.

The analysis found that the hours after the eclipse are particularly dangerous, with traffic risks approximately 50% higher than average.

To calculate traffic risk, the researchers compared the number of all fatal traffic crashes in the three-day period centered on the day of the eclipse — August 21, 2017 — and control periods of three days a week before and after the eclipse. Observation periods were chosen to match the days of the week and to account for seasonal and weekly variations in risk.

A US Navy calculator was then used to determine the time for each According to the study, the car accident is relative to the time of maximum eclipse based on latitude and longitude.

The analysis showed that increased traffic risks were consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity. Clear weather appears to increase the risk, Riedelmeyer said, likely because areas with clear skies attract more potential eclipse viewers.

As the next total solar eclipse approaches on April 8, Riedelmeier said he is concerned a similar pattern could occur. According to the study, the path of the April eclipse is within the driving range of more than 200 million people in the United States.

“Awareness of risks allows people to be more aware while driving and may inspire us to have a safer experience every day, not just on the day of the eclipse,” he said.

AccuWeather astronomy expert Brian Leid explains some of the most frequently asked questions ahead of April’s total solar eclipse.

In order to prevent an increase in traffic deaths, people should respect speed limits, reduce distractions, wear seat belts and avoid driving while impaired, Riedelmeier said.

in video People should plan to arrive at their destinations early, avoid parking too close to oncoming traffic and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists, said Shaileen Bhatt, head of the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, posted on X. He also added that people should not watch the eclipse while driving.

“Please, all of you look out for each other during this amazing event,” Bhatt said. “You will not have an eclipse in judgment.”

Everything you need to know about the 2024 solar eclipse:

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