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DOT issues do's and don'ts for drivers on eclipse day

Posted August 11
Updated August 15

— The solar eclipse on Aug. 21 is expected to bring millions of people – both vacationers and daytrippers – to the Carolinas. The path of the total eclipse skims through the western North Carolina mountains and into South Carolina.

In both states, the highway patrol is calling in reinforcements to keep traffic moving and keep the spectacle in the sky from turning into into a disaster on the road.

"We really have no precedent for this," said Rob Broome with the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

"Our goal is to try to spread our people out, have them covering as many areas as we possibly can," said 1st Sgt. Matt Wike, of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

The state Department of Transportation will suspend construction projects near the path of the eclipse to maximize available lanes, but Broome expects some level of congestion given the number of vehicles that will be on the roads of western North Carolina.

"If you are planning to go somewhere in that path of totality, make your plans now," he said. "Don't wait until the last minute, and arrive early."

Eclipse driving tips

The DOT is offering these other common-sense safety tips:

  • All drivers should start the day with a full tank of gas, and carry an emergency kit in case of long delays. Include a flashlight, cellphone charger, cash, blanket, water, non-perishable food and medications.
  • If you're in the car when the eclipse happens, don't try to take pictures while you're driving.
  • Don't stop on the shoulder. If you must pull over to watch, leave the roadway and go to a safe place.
  • Don't wear eclipse glasses while driving.

"We really hope we don't have to tell people this," said NCDOT's David Uchiyama.

And finally, when the eclipse is over, stay put.

"We are discouraging people from immediately going in their cars and heading home," Broome said.

Those traveling to areas of totality are advised to arrive early – even days early – and plan to be in place hours before the shadow begins on Monday.

Be aware that cellphone service might be overwhelmed and carry a paper map or printouts of any necessary directions.

Dress in layers to accommodate changes in the weather, and bring food and water.

Many mountain communities are planning festivals into the afternoon to offer something to do and to keep everyone from clogging mountain roads at the same time.

Broome has been working hard with agencies all over the country to help plan for the eclipse, but he said he'll probably spend that day indoors, in Raleigh at the DOT office.

"I might take a quick jaunt outside around 2:30 to see what I can see," he said.

Broome says North Carolina DOT will also monitor Interstates 77 and 95 for traffic heading in and out of South Carolina.

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