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Why You Should Be Concerned About Rubbernecking

According to the Journal of Transportation Technologies, over 15% of motor vehicle accidents are caused or influenced by rubbernecking.

By Ahmed A.Published 2 years ago 3 min read
Why You Should Be Concerned About Rubbernecking
Photo by Sandy Ravaloniaina on Unsplash

I’m very sure you’ve been in a situation where you’re driving down the road, and suddenly, traffic comes to a slow stop. In a bit you realize that while there might’ve been an accident on the side of the road, the main reason for the traffic is just drivers slowing down to stare at the accident.

Many drivers on the road are frustrated by these actions that often cause unnecessary, totally avoidable traffic congestions, and worse yet, motor vehicle crashes with distracted drivers.

Here, we would like to dive into the reasons behind rubbernecking, how it contributes to a large number of crashes yearly, the legal aspects, and how to prevent these types of accidents in the future.

How Does Rubbernecking Contribute to Accidents?

Although many drivers would describe rubbernecking as a harmless action, it in fact is a major cause of distracted driving accidents. The issue is that when one driver slows down to catch a glimpse of an accident or first responders on the side of the road, this starts a snowball effect that causes slowdowns and accidents on the freeway.

According to the Journal of Transportation Technologies, over 15% of motor vehicle accidents are caused or influenced by rubbernecking. It makes perfect sense because the less focused the drivers are on the road, the higher the chance of getting into a crash.

Is Rubbernecking Illegal?

There are no laws that specifically deem rubbernecking as illegal in the United States. However, if the rubbernecking leads to an accident, it could be considered a negligent act that’s admissible in court. The person responsible for the accident could be held liable for their negligence.

What Are The Top Causes of Rubbernecking Accidents?

In 2019, over 36,000 people lost their lives in car accidents all over the country. A large number of those crashes were caused by distracted driving. With rubbernecking being a major cause of driver distraction, we put together some of the top causes of rubbernecking accidents:

Distracted driving. As a driver, when you take your eyes off the road even for a couple of seconds, you end up driving a significant distance with practically no vision. There and more reasons contribute to rubbernecking accidents.

Crashes in the opposite lane. This causes drivers to be even more distracted as they are looking away from their lane and into the incoming traffic lane to see the aftermath of the crash.

Pile-up crashes. When there is a pile-up crash on the side of the road, this causes some drivers to slow down and try to get a glimpse of the scene.

Preventing Rubbernecking Accidents

The worst thing about rubbernecking accidents is that they’re completely avoidable. If every driver kept their eyes and attention on the road, we definitely wouldn’t have as many collisions and incidents.

Distracted driving is becoming increasingly common every year, and rubbernecking plays a large part in that. But there’s a lot we can do as drivers to minimize the effects of rubbernecking.

According to injury law firm Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi, practicing safe driving is one of the best ways to prevent rubbernecking accidents on the road. For instance, if you see ahead that traffic is becoming slow due to an accident, you should practice caution and expect some of the drivers on the road to be distracted.

Additionally, you should always leave two car lengths between you and the vehicles in front of and behind you. The main rule to follow here is to always be cautious and attentive to the vehicles around you to help prevent a crash before it happens.

Who Is Responsible in a Rubbernecking Accident?

Rubbernecking while driving is irresponsible and dangerous for everyone involved. A person that engages in rubbernecking is putting many people at risk, including other drivers, passengers, and first responders.

When a driver’s behavior and distraction causes a crash, they could be held responsible for the damages they cause. In a court of law, they would be considered negligent as they have breached their duty to act in a reasonable way given the circumstances.


About the Creator

Ahmed A.

Ahmed spends parts of his day writing about safety, cars, health, and fitness. The rest of his time is spent juggling between working out and cooking Michelin-star dishes!

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