Don't let traffic eclipse once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Do enjoy that celestial, once-in-a-lifetime, transformative experience watching the solar eclipse Aug. 21.

But don't get too star-struck, traffic experts say.

Aiming to prevent traffic hazards, the Illinois Department of Transportation is warning motorists not to pull over on the side of the road for a gander or to watch while behind the wheel.

“The better option is to find a safe place to park, and then observe the eclipse,” AAA's Beth Mosher advised. “The peak darkness phase will last just two to three minutes. NASA has created an interactive map that allows you to view when the eclipse will be visible in your area.”

What else? Do use your headlights in dark conditions and don't take photos or wear special viewing glasses while driving, IDOT's Guy Tridgell said. Drivers should also look out for pedestrians trying to watch the eclipse and motorists that may become distracted when the event occurs, Mosher noted.

Up to 200,000 people are expected to flock to the Carbondale area in southern Illinois, considered a prime viewing spot for the eclipse. That's because this location will experience a full eclipse in which the moon completely blocks the sun; northeast Illinois will get a partial eclipse.

Interstate 57 is expected to handle the bulk of the traffic along with Routes 51 and 13. IDOT will be opening lanes closed for construction from Aug. 18 to Aug. 22.

“We anticipate that traffic volumes will be heavier in the days leading up to and after the eclipse,” Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Mike Link said. “I would advise motorists to be patient and to plan for extra travel time.”

But once you hit the metro region, “we are not expecting any traffic outside the normal patterns on eclipse day in the Chicago area,” IDOT's Tridgell said.

One more thing: If you didn't book a hotel room in southern Illinois, is it OK to doze at rest stops? Yes and no, IDOT answered. “Our rule is rest area visits are not to exceed three hours — even less time if the facility is busy. They are not places to camp or park long term,” Tridgell said.

To learn more, go to

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