Are You a Rubbernecker?


When approaching an accident scene on the highway, you may notice that fellow motorists are craning their necks to get a better look at the destruction. You may have done it too. We’ve all done it; rubbernecking seems to be human nature. Merriam-Webster defines a rubberneck as an “overly inquisitive person” and while rubbernecking may seem harmless, it it can be dangerous and result in more accidents.

Is Rubbernecking All Bad?

Rubbernecking isn’t strictly reserved for individuals who gawk at the scene of an accident. Researchers believe that rubbernecking is a natural way of nonverbal communication and can increase the  social interaction among strangers. When we rubberneck, most of us are not consciously aware of the action. In fact, it’s more difficult to tell ourselves not to look and maybe that’s not a bad thing after all.

Throughout our lives, most of us were told not to stare and that looking too long was rude. However, imagine there’s a traffic jam and as you slowly drive down the freeway you see a person being hauled away in an ambulance. You glance over and notice shards of glass, crumpled metal, and clothing strewn about on the shoulder. We all know the feeling that sets in after witnessing the aftermath of an accident and the series of questions running through our head. Did that person die? Was there a child? What happened? Was she scared? Will she be OK?

Seeing an accident can evoke many feelings. First off, we are curious. We want to know the facts, that’s human nature. Secondly, some may be fearful or sad while others are thankful that they weren’t involved in the accident. Wouldn’t you rather feel something than nothing at all? Sometimes just seeing the aftermath of an accident is enough to help us reevaluate our own lives.

Dangers of Rubbernecking

Although being an accident gawker may be part of who you are, it may come with a risk. Rubbernecking is a lot like distracted driving. “Although texting while driving has received a lot of attention,” says Frank Eidson, Orlando Car Accident Attorney, “anything which takes the driver’s eyes off the road and mind off the primary task at hand (safely getting to their destination) is dangerous.”

Distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year and is the cause of thousands more injuries. Here are a few ways to stay safer when witnessing the aftermath of an accident:

  • Resist the Urge to Rubberneck: While you may want to glance over and get a quick look at the details of the accident, it’s more important to pay attention to the drivers around you and any police officers redirecting traffic.
  • Slow Down: When an accident occurs, the flow of traffic can change quickly without much warning. Pay attention to what’s ahead and be prepared for stop and go traffic. Additionally, don’t follow too closely.
  • Stay in Your Car: Unless a uniformed officer asks you to get out of your car, stay in your vehicle. Don’t pull over to the side of the road to get a “better look”.

While it’s a natural urge to view the scene of an accident, keep your eyes on the road and wait to hear the details of the accident from the daily news.


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