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The Law and You: Increased risks on the roadway due to solar eclipse

Karen Vigmond, Partner at Oatley Vigmond, sheds light on why you should balance the excitement with roadway risks and prepare for safety.

It is well known that on April 8, 2024, a rare solar eclipse will be visible in southern Ontario between 2:00 and 4:30 p.m. It is the first total solar eclipse visible in Ontario since 1979, and the next total solar eclipse in Ontario will not be until 2099. Needless to say, this is a once in a lifetime event, which is causing an enormous amount of excitement not just locally, but in cities all across North America in the path of the eclipse.   

However, along with excitement, there are also a number of risks the eclipse will bring to our roadways including increased traffic, distracted drivers, and uncommon driving conditions. It is easy to learn of the cities that will be in the path of totality for the eclipse – those located in the centre of the moon’s shadow that will experience a total eclipse. These cities include larger centres like Kingston, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls. In fact, Niagara Falls is anticipating such an influx in people that it has pre-emptively declared a state of emergency. Those wanting to avoid the large crowds in the bigger cities, but wishing to see a total solar eclipse, will travel to other smaller cities or towns in the path of totality. This will lead not only to increased traffic in and around those areas, but cities will be overwhelmed with drivers that are unfamiliar with their surroundings.   

Distracted drivers should also be anticipated on the afternoon of April 8th. Drivers travelling during the eclipse or just before or after are very likely to be distracted and interested in seeing what they can of the eclipse despite being behind the wheel.  

Lastly, the solar eclipse will bring about driving conditions we rarely experience – quick changes in lighting conditions including a period of total darkness (or close to it, depending on the location) that will only last a few minutes. Our vehicle and roadway lighting systems are not used to this and may not operate as we expect.  

The upcoming total solar eclipse is sure to be a memorable event. Anticipating and planning for the above considerations will ensure the eclipse is memorable for all of the right reasons. We recommend avoiding the roadways on the afternoon of April 8th and travelling to any viewing location well in advance, leaving lots of time for traffic and crowds. Roadway risks aside, we also encourage everyone to follow NASA’s eye safety guidelines during the eclipse to avoid eye injury.  

Oatley Vigmond is Ontario’s Personal Injury Law Firm, representing injured individuals in their claims against insurance companies.