Rubbernecking refers to a driver turning to look at a car accident as he or she passes by. It is a serious form of driver distraction that contributes to motor vehicle accidents every year. Staring at a crash site instead of the road ahead can lead to collisions – especially when other drivers nearby are doing the same thing. Rubbernecking is a dangerous type of distraction all drivers should avoid.
Rubbernecking Is a Significant Crash Risk
Driver distraction is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. It is responsible for at least 3,166 deaths in 2017 alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says looking at a phone for just five seconds at 55 miles per hour is the same as crossing a football field blindfolded. A driver distraction is anything – inside or outside of the cab – that detracts the driver’s attention from the driving task. Distractions behind the wheel can be visual, cognitive, or manual.
A car accident or disabled vehicle on the side of the road is a visual distraction. Rubbernecking means you are not looking at the road in front of your motor vehicle. You may not see the vehicle in front of you hitting its brakes or a light turning red. Rubbernecking could delay your reaction time enough to cause a preventable accident, such as a rear-end collision, pedestrian accident, intersection accident, or single-vehicle accident. Rubbernecking is the equivalent of other dangerous driving habits, such as texting and driving.
Rubbernecking is also dangerous because you will most likely not be the only driver the car accident distracts. Crash zones are dangerous for all drivers passing through due to the likelihood of driver distraction. Even if you are paying attention to the road, surrounding drivers might not be as responsible. A rubbernecking driver could crash into you while you are stopped, slowing down or trying to make a lane change. Be extra careful near a car accident and expect other drivers not to pay attention to the road.
Keep Your Eyes on the Road
Slower speeds, driver distraction, and loss of vehicle control near crash sites can all cause further car accidents. Rubbernecking contributes to many accidents in crash zones in Texas each year. By engaging in rubbernecking, you could be putting yourself and others at risk. Recognize the dangers of rubbernecking as you would the dangers of texting and driving. Do your best not to stare at a crashed vehicle as you pass. Instead, pay attention to the road in front of you to prevent causing a second car accident.
Exhibit extra caution near a recent crash by slowing down and increasing your following distance from the vehicle in front of you. If your GPS or smartphone tells you there is a crash ahead, hit the brakes slightly and be extra vigilant. Keep both eyes on the road as you pass the accident. Resist the urge to rubberneck. Only stop your vehicle if you were a witness and wish to render aid. Never follow an ambulance or firetruck to a crash site.
Practice Defensive Driving
When approaching a crash site, drive defensively. Be aware of your surroundings and assume other drivers will break the rules. Assume drivers next to you are looking at the crash, not at the road. Do your best to protect yourself from an accident by reducing your speed, using turn signals to change lanes and being prepared to maneuver away from distracted drivers. Hover your foot over the brake pedal and prepare to stop at a moment’s notice.
If you get into a collision because the at-fault driver was rubbernecking, he or she could owe you compensation for your injuries and damages. The distracted driver’s auto insurance provider may compensate you for your property repairs, vehicle replacement, medical bills and/or lost wages. Speak to a car crash lawyer in San Antonio if you need assistance proving that the other party was rubbernecking and that this is what caused your accident.