RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With more than 200 million Americans, including everyone in our state, living within a 500-mile drive of the total solar eclipse – there could be hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles on the roads and this could lead to massive traffic problems.
Traffic gets busy every day in the Triangle, but what will happen when the expected 50,000 or so drivers travel through North Carolina to get to South Carolina or the mountains to see the total eclipse?
“We really don’t know what to expect because as an event. This is a bit unprecedented. The last time that there was a total solar eclipse that traversed the entire United States was 99 years ago,” said Robert Broome of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
That was before everyone had a car and modern transportation was still in its infancy.
“We’re definitely anticipating high than usual traffic volume. We’re thinking its going to be most similar to a holiday weekend, like Memorial Day or Thanksgiving,” said Broome.
So all construction projects will be suspended in the western part of the state, interstates in central North Carolina will be wait and see.
If traffic starts to jam, authorities will have the flexibility to suspend lane closures and construction.
The thinking is that people will arrive at different times, such as a few days before the eclipse.
The hope is that people will stay late after the eclipse to avoid traffic jams.
“A lot of folks have said it’s very similar to a sporting event in that when the eclipse ends, just like when a sporting even ends, everybody heads to their cars and then head home,” Broome said.
If you will be driving during the eclipse there are some very important things not to do.
Avoid distracted driving. Don’t take photographs or video tape the eclipse while driving.
Another bit of safety advice while driving on eclipse day is to be sure you watch out for pedestrians because you don’t know who’s going to be out there looking at the eclipse.
And this is extremely important – if you’re driving and you want to stop and see the eclipse, do not stop in the middle of the road and get out of your car just to look at the eclipse.
Especially on an interstate or highway.
“We are prepared, and we will make sure we do everything we can to make sure folks get where they need to go and that they do so safely,” Broome said.
For information on travel during the eclipse, click here.