Drivers who come upon an accident might find it hard to resist take their eyes off the road to see what happened. Unfortunately, “rubbernecking” can have devastating consequences. One accident on a highway might result in a second accident because an approaching driver is more focused on looking at the wreck than looking at the road ahead.
Car accident lawyers in San Antonio know that rubbernecking is a common cause of secondary accidents on roadways. Drivers who come upon crash scenes should recognize the dangers associated with rubbernecking and should avoid this dangerous behavior that can cause injury to themselves and others. In fact, some studies show drivers lost in thought – daydreaming, in other words – is a larger threat than even smartphones when it comes to combating distracted driving.
Rubbernecking Accident Dangers
Rubbernecking is a natural tendency when approaching an accident, and a 2004 analysis of the impact of rubbernecking on urban freeways reported that as much as 60 percent of total traffic congestion on freeway systems occurs as a result of prior accidents on the roads. While these delays can be partially explained by road blockage caused by the accident, data showing that traffic backs up in opposite direction lanes unimpeded by debris is a strong indicator that rubbernecking also plays a role in traffic delays.
With increased traffic, there is a greater risk of secondary accidents — especially as drivers are moving in close quarters and their attention is focused not on the road before them or the cars around them but instead on an accident. In fact, in 2003, a VCU study of 2,700 crashes assessed the impact of rubbernecking as a type of driver distraction and found that as many as 16 percent of all accidents caused by distracted drivers occurred when the motorists were looking at traffic crashes and roadside incidents.
At the time, this meant that rubbernecking was the cause of significantly more distracted driving crashes than cell phones or other factors such as driver fatigue, looking at scenery, passenger/child distractions or distractions caused by adjustments to in-car controls. While cell phone use has increased significantly since this 2003 study, rubbernecking remains a leading cause of distractions since cell phone use is restricted by law while there are no clear legal prohibitions to prevent motorists from slowing down and turning their heads to get a glimpse of accidents on the road.
Data showing that the likelihood of a secondary crash increases by 2.8 percent for each minute the primary accident continues to be a hazard also underscores the dangers of rubbernecking. Again, debris and impaired vehicles blocking roadways does not alone account for this increased accident risk since the rate of accidents occurring increases even in lanes without debris.
With clear evidence as to the dangers of rubbernecking, motorists should make a commitment to focus on the road and not be distracted by nearby accidents as they drive.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in San Antonio, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a free case evaluation.