What is Rubbernecking?
When coming upon something interesting on the side of the road while driving, it may feel natural to want to slow down and crane your neck to see what’s going on. However, this action, known as “rubbernecking,” can actually create more issues for everyone. Rubbernecking, while a seemingly innocuous act, can lead to traffic jams and car accidents.
What Are Examples of Rubbernecking?
The term rubbernecking refers to drivers taking their eyes off the road ahead to look at something else, usually off to the side. There are a variety of reasons a curious person might slow down for a better view of something off the shoulder of the highway. Rubbernecking is often used to refer to drivers slowing down to look at vehicle accident sites, but motorists may also find themselves distracted by:
- Flashing lights on police cars, tow trucks, or first responder vehicles
- People standing or walking on the side of the road
It is natural for humans to be interested in accidents or other tragic events in the lives of other people. Often referred to as “morbid curiosity,” many people experience horror or sadness when viewing an accident scene, but find themselves unable to look away.
Why Is Rubbernecking Dangerous?
Rubbernecking is a form of distracted driving, and can create a serious hazard on the road. A rubbernecking driver may slow down as they gawk at the distraction, becoming an obstacle to those around them still traveling at normal speeds. They may also cause rear-end collisions, as they may fail to see traffic slowing down in front of them while they look at the crash site.
Rubbernecking is such a widespread problem that it is the leading cause of traffic jams. When one car crash occurs, traffic often piles up as drivers all slow down as they pass the scene.
How to Avoid Rubbernecking
Even if those around you are slowing down to gape at a crash site, you can avoid becoming part of the problem by refusing to rubberneck.
Keep your eyes on the road
Do not let anything, inside or outside the car, distract you from the task at hand. When you are behind the wheel, your only job is to get yourself and your passengers to your destination safely.
Refrain from using cell phones, fiddling with the radio, or becoming preoccupied with happenings on the side of the road, no matter how tempting it may be to sneak a peek.
Practice safe driving when passing an accident
Anticipate that cars around you may be slowing down as you pass an accident scene. Watch closely for brake lights and for drivers who appear to be distracted. If you must slow down quickly, use your hazard lights to communicate that to other motorists.
In order to stop rubbernecking, some accident responders have begun using incident screens. These large screens can surround the site of the crash, giving passing motorists nothing to look at as they drive by. This helps prevent traffic from slowing around the area.
What to Do if You Are Involved in a Rubbernecking Accident
Anytime you are involved in a car accident, be sure to take the following actions to protect yourself and your right to an insurance claim.
Check for injuries
Immediately after a crash, check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If anyone is seriously injured, call 911.
Call the police
Even if no one in your car requires immediate medical attention, you should call the local non-emergency line and ask that a police officer be dispatched to the scene. Many insurance companies require you to file a police report before they will approve any claims.
The police officer will take statements from you and the other driver and make notes about the scene. This report may be useful to you if you choose to file a claim later.
Take note of the accident scene
While you wait for the police to arrive, document the scene of the accident as thoroughly as possible. Take pictures and/or videos of both cars, your injuries, marks on the pavement, weather and traffic conditions, and the scene as a whole. Even things that may not seem important at the time may be helpful later on.
Exchange information with the other driver
When speaking with the other driver, remain as calm and professional as possible. Do not admit fault or apologize for the accident. Simply collect the following information:
- Phone number
- Insurance information
- License plate number
Do not speculate about what caused the accident. This could be used against you later.
Seek medical attention
If you were not checked by a medical professional at the scene of the accident, see your physician right away. Let them know you were involved in a car accident, so they know what to look for. You may have hidden injuries that you are unaware of.
Notify your insurance company
Call your auto insurance provider and inform them that you were involved in an accident. Depending on your policy, some vehicle repairs and medical treatment may be covered.
How Can a Personal Injury Attorney Help?
If you were involved in an accident with a rubbernecking driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your damages. An attorney with The Advocates can offer you a free consultation to determine whether you have a case.
If you choose to file a claim, doing it on your own will likely not be easy. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will make it difficult for you to obtain the settlement you deserve.
The Advocates have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and helping accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries, and we are ready to help you too. You deserve an attorney who will fight for your best interests. You deserve an Advocate.