Most folks, when they think of “distracted” driving, think of texting and driving, or using a phone in some way. But distracted driving is a broader term, encompassing a number of different reckless behaviors. One example is “rubbernecking,” the act of staring at something – usually out of morbid curiosity. When it comes to driving, rubberneckers are the ones who crane their necks to look at other drivers getting pulled over, or to stare at accidents.
It can be hard not to stare at something unexpected, like a car fire or a lot of police vehicles speeding down a shoulder, but rubbernecking is dangerous. According to one study, it accounts for 10-16% of all crashes each year. And as our towns and cities keep expanding, and the number of cars on our roads keeps growing, it’s hard to argue that the numbers will decrease any time soon.
What causes people to rubberneck?
Curiosity, most likely. It happens all the time: people slow down to see what’s going on, or they stop to take pictures or videos of something interesting. When you’re walking around, rubberneckers are annoying but usually pretty harmless.
But when you are traveling down a highway at 60 or 70 mph, and the car in front of you suddenly slows down, stops short, or starts to drift in the lane because the driver is distracted by something happening on the side of the road, it can be deadly. We know, because we represent the family of a person who was killed when a rubbernecking truck driver collided with the victim. Our client’s loved one died because the driver of an 18-wheeler got distracted.
Keeping yourself safe when other Alabama drivers are rubbernecking
If other drivers on the road are gawking at an accident (or a car fire, or anything else), you need to be on high alert; your life could literally hang in the balance if you aren’t. Here are some things you can do to increase your chance of being safe:
- Keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. Use your mirrors and make sure to keep an eye on any cars close to yours.
- If it is safe, move as far away from the incident as possible. Get into the farthest lane you can (left or right) so that you are protected fully on one side.
- If you move over, make sure to use your turn signals. If you can turn them on for a few seconds before you move, even better; it gives the other drivers extra time to see your signal.
- If you cannot move over and are forced to slow down for any reason, turn your four-way signals on until you pass the accident. The blinking lights can draw attention to your vehicle so other drivers are aware of it.
- Resist the urge to look yourself. We know it’s hard – people want to see what’s happening – but don’t allow yourself to get distracted.
- Make sure your passengers aren’t trying to rubberneck either. Even though they’re not driving, passengers who are moving around in their seats or trying to get pictures of the incident can block your view, and create blind spots that make it unsafe for you to maneuver around the accident.
What should I do if I see a car wreck right in front of me?
If two cars crash right in front of you, or if you see a single car cross multiple lanes and crash into an object (or suddenly catch fire), move slowly and safely past the accident, pull over to the shoulder, and call 9-1-1. We know if might feel wrong not to help immediately, but there’s a reason that airlines tell adults to put their own oxygen masks on before they try to help anyone else: you don’t want emergency personnel having to deal with your injuries and the other person’s injuries. So get yourself to a safe place and then call for help.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by a rubbernecking, distracted driver, Mezrano Law Firm wants to help. Our experienced Alabama car accident injury lawyers represent clients in Birmingham, Mobile, Florence, Gadsden, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and throughout the state. Please call 205-206-6300 or fill out our contact form and schedule your free initial consultation today.