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We have penned numerous Injury Board posts about distracted driving; these have dealt mainly with cell phone use and texting while driving. But there is an equally dangerous distraction that has received much less attention; the distraction is the slowing down to look at an auto accident to see what happened and what is going on, otherwise known as "rubbernecking".

How many times have you witnessed or read about more than one accident happening at the same accident site? We have all experienced it; most of us have probably been guilty of rubbernecking at least once. You are driving down the freeway; you spot an ambulance, police car, fire truck, vehicle off in the ditch or in the median. It doesn’t matter if it is a minor fender bender or a multi-car pile up; people want to see what happened. It is human nature and happens all the time. Unfortunately, this distraction causes thousands of additional accidents each year.

What is strange is that drivers, after being stopped on the roadway due to an auto accident – sometimes for an hour or longer – will all slow down and gawk as they approach an incident that caused the delay in the first instance. This need to gawk or rubberneck does not help the situation; conversely, it can cause another accident and additional problems or delays. Curiosity is human nature; we get that, but this activity is very dangerous.

This issue has been in existence on our roadways since the mass production and use of the automobile and the creation of our country’s highway and road system. If there was a clear solution to prevention, one would already be in place. However, readers should realize that rubbernecking is a very dangerous habitual activity and poses significant risk to you and others on the road. So, once again, dear readers: Please drive distraction-free at all times. Keep our roads safe for you and others around you.

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2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Truckie D

    Ack! This is one of my pet peeves. Driving cautiously past the scene of a crash is a good thing -- rubbernecking is dangerous. I've even seen people come to a stop to take pictures!

    What is it that makes crashes so fascinating to people?

  2. Gravatar for John

    But now some states are *requiring* slowing down at accident scenes:

    California has had a "Move Over, Slow Down" law for several years. The law that took effect Jan 1 [2010] made it permanent and added Caltrans trucks to the list of vehicles you must make way for, which includes police cars, fire engines, ambulances and tow trucks. If you see an emergency vehicle on the side of a highway with lights flashing, you must slow down and move into an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so. The fine is around $146, with one point on your record.

    So what is the difference between rubbernecking and obeying a law that requires slowing down and/or a lane change?

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