The term “rubbernecking” was originally coined in the 1890s. It was used to refer to tourists, who would swing their necks this way and that to take in the sights of a new city or town. With the invention of the automobile, the use of the term changed. While rubbernecking is annoying, it can also be a danger to others on the road, potentially causing car accidents and injuries.
The team at our Austin, TX law firm would like to consider the dangers of rubbernecking as well as what you can do to prevent injuries and collisions from occurring.
Why People Rubberneck
People rubberneck simply because it’s human nature. We’re a curious animal, and when there’s a crash or strange incident occurring on the side of the road, our instinct will be to observe and process this activity that is occurring.
In the process of doing that, though, rubberneckers also slow down the flow of traffic. They may even cause traffic to come to a complete stop. If the rubbernecker isn’t paying attention, this can lead to collisions with others, and even multi-car pileups.
The Dangers of Driver Distraction
Rubbernecking is just one form of driver distraction. The phrase refers to any sorts of actions that divert a driver’s attention from the road and the immediate surroundings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 25 percent of all motor vehicle crashes are linked to some form of driver distraction. Driver distraction causes roughly 1,000 injuries a day across the country.
Smart Phones and Rubbernecking
A more dangerous element has been added to rubbernecking: the smartphone. If an accident or strange incident is occurring on the side of the road, someone may feel the need to pull out their phone to take a photo or record video. This increases the dangers of traditional rubbernecking, and can prove to be more disruptive.
If a driver uses their cellphone while behind the wheel while they are rubbernecking, their attention is diverted and their hands are no longer situated on the wheel. The risk of collision increases immensely. Hundreds of feet may be covered by a car moving at highway speeds in just a matter of seconds.
Collisions and Rubbernecking
Rear end accidents are the most common collisions associated with rubbernecking. In these cases, drivers do not have time to slow down or apply the brakes because they are distracted. T-bone accidents can also occur if a rubbernecking driver runs a red light or ignores a traffic signals, winding up in the middle of an intersection.
How to Avoid Rubbernecking
The best way to avoid rubbernecking is to follow the simplest rule of the road: always keep up with the flow of traffic. If traffic around you is proceeding quickly, don’t dally or rubberneck and simply proceed at the current speed. If traffic slows down, you can slow down as well to take a quick look at the incident.
Whatever you do, be sure to avoid taking out your phone to take pictures of video of what’s happening at the side of the road. Instead, slow down, pull over, and make sure you are out of traffic in order to take photos and video, and to contact the proper authorities.
Contact an Auto Accident Attorney
For more information about your legal rights after a car crash, we encourage you to contact an experienced auto accident attorney. Our team is here to help you in your time of legal need.