“Rubber-necking” is a phrase that describes when motorists slow down to look over at an accident, often taking their eyes off of the road in the process. The “rubber neck” part refers to drivers turning their heads to look at the accident. Rubber necking really causes a lot of completely unnecessary traffic congestion. It can also create dangerous driving situations easily leading to accidents.
When there is a car accident that draws a lot of attention and rubber necking, traffic congestion increases and, as a result, so do overall travel times along that route. It has been observed that drivers will look at an accident three times longer when the accident is in full view as opposed to when the accident is completely or partially out of view.
So, if there were no accidents, travel times would be unaffected. If there was an accident that was mostly out of view, people would, on average, likely only look for three seconds or so. If you are on a big road or highway, let’s say there are a hundred vehicles in front of you. That means rubber necking would add five minutes to your travel time. If the accident was in full view, rubber necking would be three times longer. So, that would add a full fifteen minutes to your drive. This does not even take into consideration any lane closures due to said accident which can slow traffic down even further.
Rubber necking is also very dangerous. It is considered to be a form of distracted driving because you are removing your focus from driving and the road in front of you for a few moments. This means that there will potentially be many partially or completely distracted drivers driving within a close proximity at the same time. That can obviously be a recipe for disaster.
In fact, research has shown that approximately sixteen percent of all car accidents are due, at least in part, to rubber necking. This is no surprise when you consider the fact that taking your eyes off of the road for more than two seconds doubles your chance of getting into an accident. As we said before, the shorter end of average duration for rubber necking is about three seconds. The only reason rubbernecking doesn’t account for even more accidents is because of the very low speeds it tends to occur at.
Rubber necking is a blight for proper driving conditions. It unnecessarily slows traffic and creates very dangerous conditions where additional accidents are much more likely to occur. Do yourself and everyone else out on the road a favor, always avoid taking more than a super quick glance at an accident or else you might be next.