Have you ever been driving down the freeway when you come across a huge motor vehicle collision or maybe just a stunning view? Perhaps the four lanes of traffic have been reduced down to two and the lights and sirens of local police and aid are unmistakable. Guess what? Your decision to focus heavily on your surroundings instead of your driving leads to both an increase in traffic and a higher rate of secondary motor vehicle collisions!
In 2014, the Journal of Transportation Technologies published The Impact of Rubbernecking on Urban Freeway Traffic. Unsurprisingly, the conclusions were not favorable to those drivers who enjoy wallowing in other peoples’ misery or inconvenience. While intelligent transportation systems and other methods can help reduce collisions and congestion, rubbernecking is something only we – the drivers – can stop.
Rubbernecking is the action of staring curiously at auto accidents, construction, or other events while driving. The study confirmed that rubbernecking is responsible for at least 35% of all vehicle crashes. In other words, according to the National Safety Council, rubbernecking causes more vehicle crashes that phone calls and text messages combined!
Think about it this way, studies have shown that even quick glances at your phone, billboards, or auto collisions on the side of the road take roughly five seconds. At freeway speeds, you are travelling approximately 88 feet per second. While you had your eyes of the road, your vehicle continued for 440 feet – the length of 1 ½ football fields! Next time you’re driving down the road and you see a fancy car driving the other direction or an ambulance pulled off the side of the road, do yourself and everyone else a favor – ignore it.
If every driver focused on the road instead of rubbernecking their surroundings, the rate of auto collisions would plummet. This is why rubbernecking is so frustrating for experts. It is an entirely preventable behavior. Anytime we are even momentarily distracted by our conscious decisions to stare at something outside the car, it inevitably brings traffic speeds down and may even end in a collision.
The good news is that some agencies have been trying their best to prevent rubbernecking. Screens or barriers surrounding roadways may be able to prevent rubbernecking by reducing the visual incentive to stop and stare. If a collision does occur, just know that we are here to help. The physical, mental, and financial toll of an auto collision can be devastating. If you or a loved one were in a motor vehicle collision, feel free to contact Magnuson Lowell, PS for a free consultation.