Safety tips for driving during the eclipse

The solar eclipse is one day away and with spectators gathering in locations nationwide to enjoy the spectacle, drivers on the road have to be careful.

Officials are encouraging drivers to plan ahead and to use common sense when the total solar eclipse takes place on April 8.

Drivers should know when the solar eclipse will occur in the area they are planning to travel through.

RELATED: Six ways to safely watch the eclipse

Is it safe to drive during the eclipse?

Whether you’re planning to drive to find the ideal spot to see the eclipse or you’re just on the road during that time, AAA has some helpful travel and safety tips. 

Driving while trying to view the solar eclipse can be more of a distraction than texting, and it can also damage your eyesight.

Authorities and highway safety advocates encourage drivers to avoid stopping on the side of a busy highway or slowing down in the middle of the road. Drivers who want to see the solar eclipse should pull over to the side of the road and park in a safe area away from traffic.

RELATED: Where to find free solar eclipse glasses before April 8

While wearing certified safety glasses to view the eclipse, the eyewear should not be worn while driving, and AAA notes drivers should also avoid trying to take a photo or video of the solar eclipse

When driving on the road, you should keep your headlights on and to pull down the visor in your car to block the view of the sun. AAA also reminds drivers to be aware of pedestrians who may be walking around with their eyes on the sky and may not be aware of their surroundings during the eclipse.

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It's also a good idea to determine when to leave home during the eclipse in advance because traffic could be a problem, depending on where you're going. 

Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio are the most popular cities along the path of totality. Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Buffalo are also top eclipse-viewing destinations, AAA booking data notes. 

Total solar eclipse path

The April 2024 solar eclipse will be visible, at least in part, to nearly everyone in the U.S. But the path of totality – where the moon will completely block the sun – is a 115-mile-wide region that stretches from southern Texas up through Ohio, then over to northern Maine.

Large cities in the path of totality include:

  • Austin, Texas
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Carbondale, Illinois
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Plattsburgh, New York
  • Presque Isle, Maine

The farther you are from that path, less and less of the sun will appear to be blocked.

What time is the solar eclipse?

Southern Texas will see the peak of totality first, around 1:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Then Dallas at 1:42 p.m., with the time getting later and later as the moon’s shadow moves north. Indianapolis will see the peak around 3:05 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time; Cleveland at 3:15 p.m., and northern Maine around 3:30 p.m.

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Projected path and time of totality for the 2024 total solar eclipse over the U.S.

However, it will take several hours for the moon to move across the sun, so the actual eclipse event will start just over an hour before the peak of totality, with more and more of the sun slowly being blocked.

How long is the solar eclipse?

Again, that depends on where you are. Those closest to the center of the path will see total darkness for about four minutes at the peak of totality.

But because the moon moves slowly across the sun’s path, the entire eclipse event – from when the moon first clips the sun until the time it clears – will last from 90 minutes to over two hours for those in the path of totality. 

Where do I look for the solar eclipse?

The easiest way to know may be to step outside in the days leading up to the eclipse and see where the sun is during the afternoon.

MORE: How to get the best view of the solar eclipse

Early afternoon on April 8, the sun will be pretty high in the sky. As always, though, the further north you are, the lower in the sky the sun will appear.

For example, in Austin, the sun will be at 67 degrees up from the horizon at the peak of totality. Remember, 90 degrees is straight up, so 67 degrees is just over two-thirds up into the sky from the horizon.

In Cleveland, meanwhile, the sun will be slightly lower, at only 49 degrees – just over halfway up in the sky.

When is the next total solar eclipse?

After 2024, NASA says, the next total solar eclipse visible from any point in the contiguous United States will occur in 2044. Totality will only be visible from North Dakota and Montana.

The next total solar eclipse that will travel across the lower 48 states from coast to coast is in 2045. ​

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.