Skip to main content

Here’s how to avoid wrecking your car during the eclipse

Here’s how to avoid wrecking your car during the eclipse


Be prepared for ‘one of the largest driver distractions in years’

Share this story

Solar Eclipse 2012

The last time a total solar eclipse crossed the US coast to coast, there were only 6.2 million registered motor vehicles in the entire country, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Automobiles were still a relatively new fad in 1918, so when the Sun, Earth, and Moon found themselves in alignment that year, the chances of dying in an eclipse-related auto accident was statistically pretty low.

That’s not so for this year’s total solar eclipse, which is set to occur on August 21st. This may explain why federal transportation officials are so alarmed: there were 263.6 million registered vehicles in the US in 2015, and probably a few million more today. More drivers during an eclipse means more chances for distraction, which means more fender benders, or worse. In 2016, traffic fatalities in the US increased 6 percent from the previous year, to 40,200. The two-year increase — 14 percent from 2014 to 2016 — was the largest in more than half a century.

Don’t look at the eclipse while driving

All of which is to say: don’t stare at the eclipse while driving. Honestly, don’t look at the eclipse at all without the proper eyewear, but especially not while driving. It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating: don’t look at the eclipse while driving.

It’s summer, so the interstate system is already going to be choked with traffic. And when you toss a once-in-a-century event like a total solar eclipse into the mix, it’s a recipe for disaster. Over 200 million people live within a day’s drive of the eclipse’s path, which means an untold number of eager eclipse-chasers will be hitting the roads in anticipation for this rare occurrence. The FHWA is already calling it “one of the largest driver distractions in years.”

“We encourage travelers, we want to be excited about this, but be prepared,” said Martin Knopp, associate administrator for operations at FHWA, in a recent press briefing. “It’s not a time to just show up and at the spur of the moment drive for a few minutes with your head out the window looking up at the sky. It’s not time to pull over and be on the side of the road.”

Here are some helpful tips to avoid becoming a depressing statistic during one of the most anticipated cosmic events in decades.

Don’t look at the eclipse while driving

There are more ways to drive distracted than ever, from in-car Wi-Fi to Snapchat to Pokémon Go (which has already claimed one driver’s life). So apologies if this sounds repetitive, but really don’t do it. Plan ahead. If you really want to view the eclipse (remember: solar filter glasses), do it from somewhere that’s not your driver’s seat.

Don’t pull over on the side of the highway either

Obvious? Sure. But the path of totality will cross more than 20 interstates, and the eclipse is expected to last less than three minutes, which means the temptation to just pull over quick and take a peak will be overwhelming. But don’t do it. If you’re standing on the side of an interstate staring up at the sky, you won’t see that 18-wheeler bearing down on you until it’s too late.

There will be many, many pedestrians out — don’t kill them

Motorists will be forgiven for thinking they’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead, given the hordes of pedestrians that will be out, staring zombie-like at the sky and not paying attention to their surroundings. You, the driver, will be operating a two-ton vehicle in their midst. Be mindful.

Turn on your headlights

During a total solar eclipse, the Moon is literally blocking the Sun, turning day into night. So some extra visibility is probably in order: don’t rely on your vehicle’s automatic lights, position your sun visor to block your view of the Sun, and don’t wear eclipse-appropriate eyewear while driving. (Mostly because you’ll look stupid doing it, but also because you literally can’t see anything with them except the Sun.)

Watch out for construction

August is peak highway construction season. And while that doesn’t necessarily translate to more construction workers, it does mean more orange barrels, cones, and message signs, posing a potential risk for distracted drivers. The FHWA has a good resource for locating major construction and road closures in your area.

Image: NASA

Plan ahead

Honestly, the best thing you can do during the eclipse is avoid the road altogether. It’s going to be a mess out there, so if you want to get to a good viewing spot, do it early. If you live in the path of totality and don’t have to be on the road during the eclipse, put the keys down and chill out. Trucking companies and shippers are already adjusting their freight schedules to avoid the influx of traffic that’s bound to snarl the highways. Departments of transportation from states that are in the eclipse’s path are advising people to stay off the road. This is good advice. Ride a bike. Walk. Use public transportation.

“Don’t let this solar phenomenon eclipse good judgment,” FHWA’s Knopp quipped. Not exactly an LOL moment, but it’s worth noting considering how frequently our judgment is eclipsed when we drive under normal, non-cosmic circumstances.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 27 minutes ago 10 minutes in the clouds

Elizabeth Lopatto27 minutes ago
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersTwo hours ago
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.

External Link
Jess Weatherbed12:31 PM UTC
Japan will fully reopen to tourists in October following two and a half years of travel restrictions.

Good news for folks who have been waiting to book their dream Tokyo vacation: Japan will finally relax Covid border control measures for visa-free travel and individual travelers on October 11th.

Tourists will still need to be vaccinated three times or submit a negative COVID-19 test result ahead of their trip, but can take advantage of the weak yen and a ‘national travel discount’ launching on the same date. Sugoi!

External Link
Thomas Ricker11:00 AM UTC
Sony starts selling the Xperia 1 IV with continuous zoom lens.

What does it cost to buy a smartphone that does something no smartphone from Apple, Google, Samsung can? $1,599.99 is Sony’s answer: for a camera lens that can shift its focal length anywhere between 85mm and 125mm.

Here’s Allison’s take on Sony’s continuous-zoom lens when she tested a prototype Xperia 1 IV back in May: 

Sony put a good point-and-shoot zoom in a smartphone. That’s an impressive feat. In practical use, it’s a bit less impressive. It’s essentially two lenses that serve the same function: portrait photography. The fact that there’s optical zoom connecting them doesn’t make them much more versatile.

Still, it is a Sony, and

External Link
Corin Faife10:44 AM UTC
If God sees everything, so do these apps.

Some Churches are asking congregants to install so-called “accountability apps” to prevent sinful behavior. A Wired investigation found that they monitor almost everything a user does on their phone, including taking regular screenshots and flagging LGBT search terms.

External Link
James Vincent8:41 AM UTC
Shutterstock punts on AI-generated content.

Earlier this week, Getty Images banned the sale of AI-generated content, citing legal concerns about copyright. Now, its biggest rival, Shutterstock, has responded by doing ... absolutely nothing. In a blog post, Shutterstock’s CEO Paul Hennessy says there are “open questions on the copyright, licensing, rights, and ownership of synthetic content and AI-generated art,” but doesn’t announce any policy changes. So, you can keep on selling AI art on Shutterstock, I guess.

Thomas Ricker6:58 AM UTC
This custom Super73 makes me want to tongue-kiss an eagle.

Super73’s tribute to mountain-biking pioneer Tom Ritchey has my inner American engorged with flag-waving desire. The “ZX Team” edition features a red, white, and blue colorway with custom components fitted throughout. Modern MTBers might scoff at the idea of doing any serious trail riding on a heavy Super73 e-bike, which is fine: this one-off is not for sale. 

You can, however, buy the Super73 ZX it’s based on (read my review here), which proved to be a very capable all-terrain vehicle on asphalt, dirt, gravel, and amber fields of grain.

Richard Lawler12:25 AM UTC
The sincerest form of flattery.

I had little interest in Apple’s Dynamic Island, but once a developer built their spin on the idea for Android, I had to give it a try.

Surprisingly, I’ve found I actually like it, and while dynamicSpot isn’t as well-integrated as Apple’s version, it makes up for it with customization. Nilay’s iPhone 14 Pro review asked Apple to reverse the long-press to expand vs. tap to enter an app setup. In dynamicSpot, you can do that with a toggle (if you pay $5).

DynamicSpot app on Android shown expanding music player, in the style of Apple’s Dynamic Island in iOS 16.
DynamicSpot in action on a Google Pixel 6
Image: Richard Lawler
Richard LawlerSep 22
TikTok politics.

Ahead of the midterm elections, TikTok made big changes to its rules for politicians and political fundraising on the platform, as Makena Kelly explains... on TikTok.

External Link
Richard LawlerSep 22
The Twitter employee who testified about Trump and the January 6th attack has come forward.

This summer, a former Twitter employee who worked on platform and content moderation policies testified anonymously before the congressional committee investigating the violence at the US Capitol on January 6th.

While she remains under NDA and much of her testimony is still sealed,  Anika Collier Navaroli has identified herself, explaining a little about why she’s telling Congress her story of what happened inside Twitter — both before the attack, and after, when it banned Donald Trump.