As South Carolina gears up for the solar eclipse, it’s important to keep in mind that observing this once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event can lead to accidents and injuries, and not only if you stare at the sun.

No doubt you know that the U.S. will experience the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in about 100 years on Aug. 21. South Carolina lies in the path of the total eclipse.

The State newspaper describes the 70-mile-wide arc of total eclipse as “sweeping down Interstate 26 and heading out to sea via South Carolina.” That makes Greenville, Columbia, Charleston and points in between as prime locations for viewing the solar eclipse.

Surrounding areas will see a partial solar eclipse. Partial eclipses are less rare than a total eclipse.

Communities, state and national parks, and anyone with open land in sight of the eclipse are planning viewing events, and authorities are expecting large crowds of locals and tourists.

Unfortunately, events that disrupt people’s routines and draw crowds often lead to accidents.

Here are 3 crucial safety tips for avoiding personal injury during Solar Eclipse 2017.

Respect the Sun: Use Proper Safety Glasses

You should never look directly at the sun, ophthalmologists say. Doing so can cause blindness from damage to the eye’s retina due to solar radiation, a condition known as solar retinopathy. But during a solar eclipse, the sun is where the action is.

NASA says it is safe to look at the solar eclipse during the few moments of total eclipse, when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face. Otherwise, you should view a solar eclipse through special-purpose solar filters, such as can be found in “eclipse glasses” or handheld solar viewers.

Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe. Safety glasses or viewers are verified to be compliant with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard for such products.

Many, many vendors are selling eclipse glasses. NASA suggests consulting the American Astronomical Society’s Reputable Vendors of Solar Filters & Viewers page for a list of manufacturers and authorized dealers (including retailers familiar to South Carolinians) selling eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers verified to be safe.

Watch for Distracted and Negligent Drivers

Because South Carolina is one of the nation’s best places to view the solar eclipse, the event is expected to draw some 2 million tourists to our state. This is likely to include many day trippers, particularly from large metropolitan areas surrounding Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta, Ga., which are only a couple of hours from Columbia or Greenville, respectively.

“In the event of any last-minute, impromptu eclipse day trippers, South Carolina might have the worst traffic problem of any other state along the path of totality,” one writer says.

The S.C. Highway Patrol is particularly concerned about drivers stopping on interstates or alongside highways as the midday eclipse occurs, and causing traffic jams and/or car accidents.

“We cannot stress enough that motorists should not stop on the interstates and impede traffic during the eclipse event,” the S.C. Department of Public Safety says in a statement. “Assigned personnel will monitor this and respond accordingly to ensure public safety.”

Beyond those who stop where they should not during the eclipse, it’s almost inconceivable that anyone driving during the eclipse will be able to resist the urge to sneak a peek at the sun. The 2017 solar eclipse may represent the biggest driver distraction in history!

If you must be on the road during the hours around the total eclipse, be alert for distracted drivers.

Be Mindful of Crowds

Large gatherings of people can be dangerous. At a certain point, crowd density itself becomes a safety problem. Unanticipated events in a large crowd also can cause panic and injury. The use of alcohol and drugs exacerbates the potential for unruly behavior in a crowd, putting individuals more at risk of injury.

If a crowd begins to run — due to a sudden downpour, an outbreak of violence or any perceived threat — it is easy to fall and be injured and/or trampled.

In any large crowd, you should know where the exits are and be prepared to leave if the crowd seems to be getting out of control, State Farm Insurance suggests. Wear closed-toe shoes and avoid loose clothing or accessories that could become tangled or pulled. If you find yourself in a crowd moving in a direction you do not want to go, walk sideways or diagonally across it to work your way out.

Our South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

We offer the safety tips above — and more at each link — because at Joye Law Firm, we see the cost and harm of avoidable personal injury accidents every day. Our hope for August 21 is a bright, sunny day and that the solar eclipse is an exciting experience that becomes a wonderful memory for everyone who witnesses it in South Carolina. Please take a moment to make yourself and those around you safe if you go out to enjoy the solar eclipse.

At Joye Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling South Carolina injury claims. We can help you recover the full and fair compensation you deserve.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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