What Is Rubbernecking? Rubbernecking refers to the act of slowing down one’s vehicle or stopping altogether to observe an accident, incident, billboard, or event of interest on the side of the road.

Although it is essential to be aware of your surroundings while driving, you also need to be mindful of what is in front of you. A driver who is rubbernecking may not notice potential road hazards, which can lead to a catastrophic accident.

Is Rubbernecking Considered to Be Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a dangerous behavior that can cause fatal accidents, traffic delays, injuries, and other safety hazards on the road. There are 3 types of distracted driving:

  1. Visual distractions: Taking your eyes off the road
  2. Manual distractions: Taking your hands off the wheel
  3. Cognitive distractions: Taking your mind off driving

Rubbernecking is certainly a distraction, as it involves taking your eyes off the road to observe something other than your own driving, either on or off the road. This can cause a driver to lose focus and situational awareness.

Why Do Drivers Rubberneck If It Is Dangerous?

Despite the risks, some people still engage in rubbernecking for various reasons. Some common reasons for rubbernecking upon encountering accident scenes include the following:

  • People may be curious about what caused the accident. This natural human curiosity can be especially strong in situations where there is an accident or other unusual event, and people may feel compelled to look.
  • Concerned drivers may be trying to see if anyone is injured and needs help. Other drivers may slow down to rubberneck thinking a slower pace will help them to drive more carefully.
  • If traffic has reached a standstill because of an accident, people may look out of boredom or frustration. Many people do not understand the dangers of distraction. Some may feel they are experienced drivers and not at risk of causing an accident. Other people may be easily distracted and have difficulty paying attention to the road.

Although rubbernecking while driving is not illegal in all states, every driver must understand the risks of rubbernecking and do their best to avoid this behavior.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 people die every day in crashes involving distracted drivers. In fact, distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents in the United States.

There are many dangers when driving while distracted. For example:

  • Drivers who slow down to look at an incident often fail to maintain proper distance. This causes drivers to miss important cues about their surroundings, resulting in rear-end collisions and other types of accidents.
  • It may not seem like a big deal to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds to see what is going on. However, rubbernecking can significantly reduce your reaction time, decision-making skills, and ability to maintain control of the vehicle.
  • Distracted driving can lead to serious injuries or death. When drivers take their eyes off the road, they are less likely to see pedestrians or bicyclists who may be in their path. As a result, distracted drivers are more likely to strike these vulnerable road users.

Avoid Rubbernecking While Driving

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid the dangers of rubbernecking while driving:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and what is going on around you. Keep your eyes moving, and don’t fixate on any one thing for too long. A quick glance may give you all the information you need without putting yourself at risk.
  • Stay calm and concentrate on driving safely. Getting angry or stressed about what you see happening around you will only make it harder to focus on the task at hand. Instead, you should focus on your own driving.
  • If you must look, do so briefly and then refocus on driving. Even a quick glance can take away from your concentration and increase your risk of a catastrophic crash.
  • Pay attention to the traffic around you, and be prepared to stop or change lanes if necessary. Rubbernecking can distract drivers and cause them to drive recklessly. Drive defensively and be cautious of unsafe other drivers around you.

Rubbernecking Is a Common Cause of Accidents

Distracted driving accidents are a common occurrence on roads and highways around the world. There have been many reports of collisions caused by rubbernecking in the news over the years.

One recent example of the dangers of rubbernecking occurred on Utah roadways in October 2022. Distracted drivers were reportedly rubbernecking, slowing down to view a collision from the freeway. This reduced reaction time to hazards on the road.

Sadly, the result was an additional collision soon after the first. Commenting on the correlation between the two, Utah Highway Patrol Zach Todd stated, “The big thing is to pay attention to what’s happening in front of you when you’re driving…Make sure that you have a safe following distance and you have a plan for traffic stops.”

What to Do After a Rubbernecking Accident

While we may be tempted to get a good look at accidents or other events going on around us, drivers should be mindful of their surroundings, especially when traveling at high speeds. Take extra caution when passing by any incidents or unusual sights.

If you are the victim of a distracted driver, remember the following:

  • The best thing to do is to stay calm and try to move out of traffic’s way. If possible, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.
  • If you cannot pull over, try keeping as much space between you and the car in front of you as possible. You should ensure your safety and that of your passengers before going to help others.
  • After being in an accident caused by a rubbernecker, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against the responsible driver. The car accident injury lawyers of Siegfried & Jensen are ready to help you explore your legal options.

Siegfried & Jensen are experienced car accident lawyers who can help you get the compensation you deserve after being in an accident caused by a distracted driver. You have nothing to lose by meeting us for a free no-obligation consultation. Contact us today for a free consultation at (801) 845-9000 or complete our online form. 

By being aware of the potential hazards of distracted driving, we can ensure our roads are safer for everyone involved.

Zoom Screenshot_16.png

Content checked by personal injury attorney Todd Bradford. I worked for a small law firm in Utah County, where I handled various types of cases. My main focus was personal injury and I decided that is what I enjoyed doing the most. I rejoined Siegfried and Jensen in 2012 where my focus is solely on helping personal injury clients. I take pride in helping personal injury clients and enjoy serving them. If you need an attorney for auto accidents or injuries of any kind in Salt Lake City, UT, Ogden, UT, Spokane, WA, or Boise, ID, contact us.